By Scott Levine
Weapon permits may be dwindling in Clinton County, but an area business says gun sales aren’t facing the same trend.
A state law that went into effect in 2011 making Iowa a “shall issue” state created a large spike in permits, but those permits dropped by half in 2012. Although that brought a surge of gun sales to R & R Sports in Clinton in 2011, Manager Rudy Morgan said the sales are still peaking two years later.
“We’ve seen an increase in business all across the board,” said Morgan, a 26-year veteran at R & R. “Shotguns, handguns, pretty much everything, especially older people are buying. When they’re standing at the counter, they say ‘we thought we’d probably never own a gun, but we think we need one now.’”
That doesn’t surprise Clinton County Sheriff Chief Deputy Kevin Cain.
Cain handles a majority of the weapons permits handed out by Clinton County, and although the permits seem to be leveling off for now, according to Cain, the permits that were granted in 2011 are for a five-year period.
“I can say there has been a dramatic increase in the volume of permits to carry,” Cain said. “Can I say we’ve had a drastic change in crime? I can’t say that crime is reduced or that there is more gun crime. I don’t see a dramatic change because of the law change.”
The volume of permits has increased, Cain said, and the discretion that used to be in the sheriff’s office control, is now mostly gone.
In 2011, 1,341 permits were approved in Clinton County. In 2012, the county issued 688 permits. The sheriff’s office denied 17 applications during these two years.
There are still a few areas where the office can deny permits for specific conditions or through state and federal code, but mostly a potential gun owner must earn a certificate or be an honorably-discharged veteran to receive a weapons permit.
But denying a permit in the past wasn’t a regular item on the Sheriff’s office to-do list, Cain said.
“It wasn’t that people that applied in 2011 couldn’t get a gun before,” Cain said. “It just came to light more in 2011.”
R & R Sports is still seeing new customers, and the majority of them are there for home defense, Morgan said. Businesses like R & R Sports are feeling the effects of a national movement toward more weapons.
“Our suppliers that normally have…thousands of guns in stock have absolutely nothing,” Morgan said.
With the added interest in home safety, organizations like the Izaak Walton League have stepped up to offer training courses.
The group recently held a permit-to-carry course, and will host a hunter safety course in the spring. Group members have hosted hunter safety courses for awhile, but the permit-to-carry course was a first for the league.
Izaak Walton League member Wayne Schoel said training helps everyone involved.
“Just for safety sake, any time you have a weapon in a person’s hand, the more safety precautions on using and being aware of surroundings, makes for a safer environment,” Schoel said.
With the increased demand in firearms, including with younger children in hunting and sport shooting, Schoel sees an advantage in having as much information as possible.
“We think it’s very important to have information available,” Schoel said. “When 11 and 12 year olds take our hunter education course, they are given a couple of very good books that have a lot information on how to carry weapons safely and what to watch for.”