Confessions of an Iowa gun snob

Have you ever written or said something from a centrist position only to have those on either side of the issue overreact, confirming your centrist stance?

Well, I have. This week, in fact.

Last Saturday this column detailed my reaction to seeing a man in a local store with a not-so-concealed gun. The narrative, in which I detailed my own shortcomings, was written for two reasons. First, it was the first thing I thought about after reading a guest column we’d published the week before. I simply had to write it; had to get it out of my system before I moved on to other things. (If you aren’t a writer, that may not make much sense. I apologize if that is the case.)

Second and more important, for some time now I have taken issue with Iowa’s gun law, but not the way you may think. Iowa law requires those seeking a permit to complete a class, but does not require basic, hands-on experience with a weapon be a part of the class.

By my estimation, if the state is going to require a class, it should be more than a farce.

Now, this is not to say that some permit classes attended by or offered by Iowans don’t go above and beyond the minimum required by law. Some do. Others, however, don’t. Permit holders in Iowa can meet the minimum requirements of the law by taking an online course. They never have to touch a weapon. It isn’t required.

Of course, some seek a permit after years of experience with weapons. Iowa law provides class waivers for those who have such military or law enforcement experience. But even if this wasn’t the case, what’s the harm is having those going through an already mandated class suffer the inconvenience basic hands-on understanding and respect for a weapon, preferably the one or a similar one to what they plan to carry?

To be clear, I’m not advocating for Iowa to increase the bar; I want an honest discussion about what’s already on the books and whether or not it needs to be tweaked. If that makes me some pinko commie anti-gun madcow (insert numerous other words that can’t be printed in the paper) … so be it.

For those on the other end of the spectrum, who learned through my last column that I’m not as against gun laws as you would like, I ask that you also take a seat at the table.

I grew up around guns and, contrary to what some may have incorrectly read into my previous column, have no qualms with being around most people who own and use them. My father, who taught me how to shoot, instilled perhaps an over abundance of respect within me for weapons. When I see someone disrespecting a weapon, carrying it incorrectly, being sloppy with their holster, I am concerned, nervous and don’t want to be around that person.

I still contend that Iowa law, at least how it is written and applied today, offers no assurances. Permit classes offering the bare minimum required by our law teach citizens when to carry and what to carry, but not how to use or respect.

Many, many permit holders in Iowa are diligent. They care for and respect their weapons. They train and they practice.

They do so because it’s just the right thing to do. Current Iowa law? It truly doesn’t care.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on Jan. 17, 2015. Photo credit: Cliff Jette/The Gazette