Guns in Iowa

During the 2017 legislative session, Iowa lawmakers overhauled the state's gun laws. The bill, signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad in April was called "one of the most ambitious expansions of gun rights legislation passed in any state in recent years," by The Hill.

This summer, IPR is examining the impact of HF 517, as well as other issues involving guns in Iowa. We'll talk about so-called "stand your ground" provisions, how they're being received by communities of color and how gun owners are training in self defense and gun safety. We'll hear about what it's like to treat gun shot wounds. We'll look ahead to coming political battles over gun rights and more.

Join us, August 14th - 18th, for conversation about these issues on River to River, as well as reports on Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Ways to Connect

Michael Saechang

For groups trying to affect firearms policy, what are their priorities, challenges, strategies for the future? Where is money and lobbying efforts going? What do Americans think about access to guns, and what do those view say about their own politics? In this River to River program as part of our continuing Guns in Iowa series, host Ben Kieffer gets two looks at the national gun debate.  

The city of Des Moines could set a record for the number of homicides this year. Sergeant Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department says if another homicide happens, it will be the most the city has seen in over a decade.

“Right now we are at 21, and in 2015, that was the mark we hit for the whole year, and that was the highest we’d hit since 1995. So, with so much time remaining in the year, there’s a very real possibility we’ll hit that,” says Parizek.

“We’ve had as low as 5 in a year. We tend to hover around the 7, 8, 9 range.”

Iowa DNR

Next week as classes begin, Northwood Kensett secondary principal Keith Fritz will include something in his fall assembly speech that’s not heard often in Iowa schools.

“I mention, in addition to ‘we have the right to search your lockers, guys, we’re going to have a great year this year,” he says. "Those of you who hunt, federal firearms regulations prohibit you from having those on campus.’ And that’s all it takes, they just comply.” 

Wikimedia

One part of Iowa’s new comprehensive gun rights law that went into effect in July may end up in court. Under the new statute, a gunowner can sue any local government that tries to keep firearms out of public buildings.  

Dozens of counties with courthouse weapons bans are potential targets. 

Jackson County Chief Deputy Steve Schroeder says they lived through a nightmare a few years back at their courthouse in Maquoketa. 

Ben Kieffer

The number of permits to carry weapons has risen dramatically in Iowa.

According to numbers collected by the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Iowa has issued more than 375,000 weapons permits since 2011. This doesn’t include professionals who are who required to carry weapons such as a police or corrections officer.

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Bruno Stergodt / Wikimedia Commons

An overhaul of Iowa’s gun laws earlier this year included a controversial "stand your ground" provision. It means an individual who feels threatened has no duty to retreat before using deadly force for self-defense.

Gun rights groups consider the change a victory for gun owners, but the ripple effects of similar laws in other states have raised concerns among black Iowans. Some African-American residents of Waterloo are still grappling with what the "stand your ground" law could mean for themselves, their families and young people of color.

MilitaryHealth

Nationally, more people between the ages of 15-24 are shot than any other age group. Dr. Denville Myrie, a trauma surgeon at Mercy Medical Center, says that’s true for the ER he works for in Des Moines. 

"These are young, healthy men," Myrie says. "They should not be dying. They are dying from basically stupidity; for no reason. There are so many guns on the street, and it seems like nobody cares what they can do about that." 

Amy Mayer/IPR

Several new gun-related measures enacted during the 2017 Iowa legislative session are taking effect and Iowa Public Radio is exploring their implications for the state. But it’s hard to follow gun news if you don’t speak the language. Come along on visits to Camp Dodge, Brownells retail gun shop, and the Story County Sheriff’s office to learn about different types of firearms.