It’s hard to miss which car is Howard Kamish’s. With Howard’s Electronics, featured prominently on his vehicles and the expensive computer and electronic equipment the Glenwood business owner often carries, he knows he’s potentially a target for thieves.
“With the nature of my business, quite often I have cash on me, several hundred dollars if not more, and computers, so that kind of makes you feel a little insecure traveling with that,” Kamish said. “Unfortunately with the way our society is and they way things are today with drugs and our youth, not just youth, because I certainly don't want to blame them, but there are a lot of bad elements out there that we need to protect ourselves from.”
Kamish, to protect himself and his livelihood, applied for and received a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“If I'm going to be traveling and I have my vehicle or a lot of cash or a customer’s computer in the car, I’ll either have it either on me or in my car,” said Kamish of the .38 Special he carries.
Kamish is one of an ever expanding group of Iowa gun owners flocking to sheriff’s offices across Iowa to take advantage of the law that went into effect Jan. 1 that requires sheriffs under most circumstances to issue permits to carry concealed weapons.
In the first week of January alone, the Mills County Sheriff's Office granted 64 concealed carry permits. According to Mary King at the sheriff's office that’s a “huge increase” from a typical month, which averages between 20 to 30 total permits, she said. Requests are also up at the Pottawatamie, Fremont and Montgomery county sheriff's offices.
Last fall, the Iowa Legislature adopted a uniform standard change in all 99 counties for issuing concealed-carry weapons permits that went into effect this year. The change resulted from the seemingly subtle re-wording of the phrase “may issue” to “shall issue” in the concealed-carry statute, making requests for concealed-carry permits all but a sure thing. Currently 48 states have laws that allow citizens to carry concealed firearms in public, after obtaining a permit from state or local law enforcement.
Under the former law, sheriff's departments could issue or deny concealed weapons permits on a case-by-case basis. The new law allows sheriff's departments to deny applications only for specific reasons, such as criminal records or substance abuse addictions, and only with written explanation. The new law also does not require applicants to justify the reason for their concealed weapon application and requires just a one- hour, as opposed to the former four-hour, safety course. The cost of the five-year permit is $50.
“It takes my discretion away,” said Mills County Sheriff Gene Goos of the change in the law, who along with the Iowa Sheriff's and Deputies Association opposed the change in the legislation.
Goos said in the past he turned down “hardly any” requests, as long as they met guidelines and didn’t have a felony conviction or a domestic abuse violation in their criminal history. But in the past Goos could examine requests, consider the statement of justification all applicants had to fill out and then make the determination whether to grant it. He no longer has that discretion.
“It does concern me,” Goos said. “Before, we required them to shoot at a range and now they just can come in with a piece of paper that they’ve had their safety training and we have to accept it.”
Before deciding to apply for the permit, Kamish took several classes and studied the law. He wanted to know how to use the gun as well as when he could or should use it.
“There are a lot of courses that are either free or dirt cheap that I highly recommend anyone take if they're even considering carrying a weapon,” said Kamish. “They’re very educational and they give you a lot better feeling of having it and if you have to, God forbid, use it, knowing when to use it.”
Knowing how and when to use a concealed hand gun is one thing, said Goos but of even bigger concern to the Mills County Sheriff is the wide purview of the concealed carry law. The law allows any permit holder to carry any weapon, whether it be a handgun, rifle or shotgun.
“There’s provisions that it’s any weapon, be it a shotgun, a rifle or a handgun (that can be carried),” said Goos. “Before, we had a manner of conveyance, which meant you could have a loaded shotgun or rifle in your truck, but everything had to be cased. Now, I’m not sure how that’s handled, especially with the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and game violations. And with my deputies, that’s always a citation we could write that we can’t now.”
Goos said it’s likely businesses in the county will begin posting signs prohibiting firearms inside but it won’t change how he or his deputies do their job.
“You always treat every traffic stop as if they’re armed,” he said.