Gun law stirs controversy

BY LISA BRAHM | APRIL 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulrabek said he’s worried about the implications of a gun-permit bill awaiting Gov. Chet Culver’s signature.

The bill, Senate File 2379, would mandate that sheriffs in Iowa’s 99 counties follow certain criteria when issuing gun permits.

If signed, the bill would also allow Iowa gun owners to openly carry their weapons, carry long guns, and extend the length of time between license renewals.

“All sheriffs support people’s right to own and bear arms,” Pulkrabek said. “But what we don’t support is the right for everyone to carry them out in public.”

Culver has 30 days to take action on the bill, which passed the state Legislature in late March.

Iowa House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, who backs the bill, said the law would bring “uniformity and more standardization in the issuance of permits.”

Under current law, Pulkrabek and other Iowa sheriffs are allowed to issue or deny a gun permit based on personal discretion.

If Culver signs the bill, Iowa would become what many refer to as a “shall issue” state instead of a “may issue” state.

Pulkrabek said he’s worried the new law would take away sheriffs’ discretion in issuing permits.

The National Rifle Association proposed the bill in an effort to have Iowa join the roughly 20 other states with “shall issue” laws.

Joel Neuendorf, a 22 year-old University of Iowa senior and a member of the Hawkeye Hunting and Fishing Interest Group, said he is in favor of concealed-gun items in the bill, which would not require gun owners to keep their weapons concealed.

“The bill will be very beneficial to me and other hunters in Iowa,” Neuendorf said.

Johnson County issued 385 gun permits in 2009, according to Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association statistics.

For all those permits issued, Pulkrabek said he’s also concerned with the change to renewal requirements. The bill would extend the life of permits from one year to five.

“We believe that five years is too long,” he said. “I think it is good that we see someone every year.”

The annual procedure allows the Sheriff’s Office to run background checks at each renewal, Pulkrabek pointed out.

“People are not going to come in to our office on year two or three of their permit and say to us that we need to take their permit away because they were charged with domestic abuse,” he said.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said she voted against the legislation in part because it allows licensed gun holders from other states to legally carry weapons in Iowa.

“It seems we are taking a step backward,” she said.

Troy Price, Culver’s press secretary, said the governor is expected to decide whether he’ll sign the bill by April 29.

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