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Iowa sheriffs preparing for wave of gun permit renewals

Iowa sheriffs preparing for wave of gun permit renewals

DUBUQUE (AP) — Nearly five years after Iowa residents flocked to sheriff’s offices in a rush to obtain firearm permits, sheriffs are bracing for a wave of renewals.

The initial spike in 2011 came after the Iowa Legislature changed the state’s permitting law from “may issue” to “shall issue,” giving law enforcement less discretion over who can receive a permit, according to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

The number of permits issued in Iowa skyrocketed after the change was made, from roughly 39,000 non-professional permits issued in 2010 to more than 101,000 in 2011. The number of permits issued has remained high ever since, but nowhere near the number issued in 2011. Five-year renewals will begin in January.

The only legal disqualifications from obtaining a permit is if a person is a felon, younger than 21 years old, has a drug or alcohol addiction or has a misdemeanor assault conviction. A person deemed likely to use a weapon to endanger others also can be disqualified, though there needs to be documented evidence to back that claim.

Permits also are invalid if a person is intoxicated.

Dubuque County Sheriff Don Vrotsos said there is no way of knowing if the county is more or less safe because of the law change, but that he thinks changes should be made to the law.

“The more guns that are out on the streets, that could be some type of an issue down the road,” he said. “Have we had any issues at this time? Not that I’m aware of. That doesn’t mean it could not happen.”

Jeff Udelhofen, the owner of Tri-State Outdoors, a Dubuque gun store, said the 2011 law change has allowed more people to become educated about firearms, as a safety course is a required component for most applicants.

Udelhofen said the “million dollar question” is figuring out how to keep guns away from the mentally ill.

“It’s a tough question to try to figure that out, who’s going to get to that point where they snap and what means they’re going to use to carry that out,” Udelhofen said. “I know, myself, they can background check me to death to make sure I’m clean, and I think most people who don’t have anything to hide don’t mind more stringent background checks.”

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