WATERLOO, Iowa --- Gun owners and sheriff's offices are preparing for new permitting requirements to kick in Saturday, though some in law enforcement have expressed concern about the law's details.
The law approved in April makes Iowa a "shall" issue state, meaning county sheriffs lose much of their discretion in denying weapons permits. Advocates say the law creates a uniform 99-county standard, but safety training requirements have some sheriffs worried.
In Black Hawk County, the switch from "can" to "shall" won't have much impact on the number of permits issued.
"We were essentially a shall-issue county," Sheriff Tony Thompson said.
Black Hawk County has around 3,000 weapons permits issued, he said.
The big change may lie in the requirements for a new permit, such as proof an applicant has weapons training. That includes prior military training, certified National Rifle Association courses or classes offered by a community college. The goal was to make safety training standard across the state, but that hasn't been achieved, Thompson said.
"It's done the exact opposite," he said.
That's because safety standards can vary around the state, he said. In the Cedar Valley, most counties, including Grundy and Bremer counties, had people take classes at Hawkeye Community College.
Bremer County Sheriff Dewey Hildebrandt said if someone from another part of the state with a safety certification, he may not know the program's criteria.
Under current law, Hildebrandt could deny someone if he was leery of that training.
"With the new process, we're essentially bound to take anyone," he said.
However, Hildebrandt said the county has also functioned as essentially a shall-issue county for some time.
The Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association plans to push for standard training criteria in the upcoming session, said Hildebrandt, who is secretary/treasurer of the organization.
In Grundy County, permit issuance will change greatly, Sheriff Rick Penning said. The county now doesn't issue permits for personal protection, like in Black Hawk or Bremer counties, but Penning approves those for restricted hunting and trapping. Grundy County typically has about 140 permit renewals a year.
Penning said he doesn't think the change will affect him too much.
"It's nothing we can't get around," he said.
He shared his neighboring officials' concerns about safety as well.