On Monday, The Des Moines Register continued its pro-gun control push with yet another editorial based on a report from the Center for American Progress and Progress Iowa – two illiberal groups that have demonstrated both bias and ignorance about guns. Their report’s footnotes mostly referenced their interpretation of the Center for Disease Control’s data.

Which is fitting as The Des Moines Register has made a practice of supporting policies that restrict freedom in Iowa. Now the editorial board wants the state to return to its practice having county sheriffs issue carry permits on a purely subjective basis.

They write:

Iowa’s elected officials made a big mistake in 2010 when they took away discretion from county sheriffs in deciding who should be granted a permit to carry a weapon. They ignored the concerns of law enforcement and opened the floodgates for barely trained people to tote loaded guns nearly everywhere.

The year before the law went into effect, about 40,000 Iowans had permission to carry a loaded firearm. By 2015, about 250,000 Iowans had gained permits to do so, according to information provided by the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

More loaded guns in the hands of more people in more places rarely makes anyone, including gun owners, safer. Iowans who once were required to unload and store their weapons for transport can now legally tuck them under a car seat or in a jacket pocket. This increases the likelihood of accidents.

Unfortunately, Iowa’s elected officials seem intent on wanting as many people as possible to own, carry and even use guns. The “stand your ground” law that went into effect last year sends a message that people should not be afraid to shoot someone they believe poses a danger.

In 2010, the Iowa Legislature changed the law from “may issue” to “shall issue.” This meant that county sheriffs could no longer subjectively deny Iowans a carry permit unless they were restricted by state law.  You have to be 21-years-of-age, not addicted to alcohol or controlled substances, there is no documentation from the previous two years that you discharged a weapon unlawfully or in a manner that endangered yourself or others, adjudged mentally incompetent, a convicted felon, or convicted of a serious or aggravated misdemeanor involving a firearm or explosives, or prohibited by federal law from shipping, transporting, possessing or receiving a firearm. You also have to demonstrate that you have completed the training requirement and pay the required fee of $50.

If you meet those criteria you will be issued a carry permit. With the “may issue” the county sheriff would decide whether or not he or she felt like you needed to carry. In my opinion that is blatantly unconstitutional.

How has the change in the law impacted fatalities in Iowa? I wanted to look at the CDC data myself. I looked at six-year blocks prior to the change in the law and after the change in the law.

From 2005-2010 the number of homicides in Iowa by a handgun was 166 fatalities or 0.92 deaths per 100,000 Iowans. During that same time frame, there were 181 homicides without a handgun or one death per 100,000 Iowans.

From 2011-2016 the number of homicides by a handgun increased slightly to 220. This is not really significant statistically because Iowa’s population also increased during this time. This translates into 1.18 deaths per 100,000 Iowans or an increase of 0.26 per 100,000 since the law changed. By comparison, there were 193 homicides without a handgun or 1.04 deaths per 100,000 Iowans.

Did we see an increase in suicides by firearm? From 2005 to 2010 there were 969 suicides translating to 5.37 deaths per 100,000 Iowans. Conversely, there were 1,133 suicides without a firearm or 6.28 deaths per 100,000 Iowans. Suicides by firearm did increase in Iowa from 2011-2016 – 1,196 suicides took place during that time or 6.43 deaths by 100,000 Iowans. However, suicides without a firearm also increased in Iowa – 1,347 suicides or 7.24 deaths per 100,000 Iowans.

Surely we’ve had more unintentional deaths caused by firearms since Iowa has become a “shall issue” state right? From 2005 to 2010 Iowa saw 24 unintentional deaths related to a firearm. Guess how many unintentional deaths Iowa saw from 2011-2016? 24.

What this data does not tell us is this. How many of those homicides were committed by non-residents? How many of those were legally purchased firearms? How many of those homicides were committed by someone with a carry permit? How many suicides committed in Iowa were committed by Iowans? How many of those were carry permit holders? How many of those suicides were by firearms purchased legally?

We don’t know. The Des Moines Register, American Progress Center, and Progress Iowa want to restrict your freedom over an increase of 0.26 homicide by firearms per 100,000 Iowans (more homicides were committed without a firearm), and an increase of one suicide by firearm per 100,000 Iowans at a period of time that saw the number of suicides increase across the board.

The Des Moines Register says that every 39 hours someone is killed by a firearm in Iowa. That is pure hyperbole. If people with carry permits were as dangerous as they would have us believe the jump in deaths from the time before “shall issue” to after would have skyrocketed proportionately. That is not remotely the case and the data available does not demonstrate the “shall issue” law is to blame for the slight increase in firearm deaths.

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