Can I legally carry a firearm on my person without a permit?
Am I breaking the law if I carry a concealed handgun into a public place for my own protection?
There are just a few of the questions commonly asked by those researching concealed carry laws.
WHAT IS CONCEALED CARRY?
Concealed carry, or carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) on your person, is a hot-button topic throughout the U.S. This is the practice of carrying a weapon, like a handgun, in public in a concealed manner for self-defense where others around you don't know you have it. The opposite of this is called "open carry".
Concealed carry laws are set by individual states and vary greatly nationwide. Many states are relaxing their concealed carry laws with new legislation, including Iowa.
"I think that a lot of Iowans are hoping that on July 1st when constitutional carry kicks off that they won't need a permit anymore. And that's kind of a misunderstanding of the law,” said Concealed carry instructor, Tim Grover.
Come July 1st, Iowa will move to a Constitutional or Permitess Carry state, meaning individuals who are legally able to possess a firearm will not need a permit to carry a concealed handgun on their person. Until then, you need a permit.
This change in Iowa's law comes as Gov. Kim Reynolds and other Republican legislators push for change, saying that allowing Iowans to carry without a permit "protects the 2nd Amendment rights of Iowa's law-abiding citizens."
Come July 1st, permits in Iowa will still be available, they just won't be required to have to carry within state lines. For those who do want a permit, there are two options: non-professional and professional. Iowans must be 21 years or older to get a nonprofessional permit to carry. Iowans 18 and older can get a professional permit if they need one for their job.
But what about Iowa residents who want to carry in another state, like neighboring Nebraska or South Dakota? Well, you will need to follow that state's concealed carry laws, meaning you'll most likely need an official permit or license to carry.
For a full breakdown of Iowa's CCW laws, click here.
The State of Nebraska is a "Shall-Issue" state, meaning CCW permits are issued at the state level by the State Patrol. To carry a concealed weapon, you must have a permit in Nebraska. To get that permit, you first must take a firearms training course and pass a 30 question, multiple-choice test. Nebraska residents must be at least 21 years old to get a permit to carry.
Nebraska has the strongest laws for concealed carry in the tri-state, but its permit is recognized by several other states in the U.S.
For a full breakdown of Nebraska's CCW laws, click here.
The concealed carry laws for the State of South Dakota fall between Iowa and Nebraska. South Dakota is a Shall-Issue, Constitutional Carry state with permits being issued by the county sheriff's office.
South Dakota gives anyone over the age of 18 who can legally have a firearm the option to conceal carry without a permit, but permits are encouraged and give holders the ability to carry in other recognized states, like Nebraska.
South Dakota issues three different types of carry permits: Regular, Gold Card and Enhanced. The regular permit is given to most civilians and is recognized by several other states. Gold Card and Enhanced permits offer more benefits, like training courses and pre-approved background checks.
For a full breakdown of South Dakota's CCW laws, click here.
DO I REALLY NEED A PERMIT?
Now you might be asking yourself if my state is a 'constitutional carry' state where a permit is not required, what's the point of taking a concealed carry class? For many, it's a personal responsibility.
“I would say even though Iowa is changing the regulation, where you don't need a class to get a permit and doesn't relieve you from, from responsibility to get training, and to just to know the law is to know when you can use a gun and when you shouldn't,” said concealed carry permit instructor, Howard Hulshof. “And you know what you need to do and just get that basic training, just because you have the gun doesn't mean it's going to save your life, you still have to have the mental ability and the desire to learn."
Currently, 20 states have some form of 'constitutional carry' laws, this has grown in the last 12 months with states like Iowa, Montana, Texas, and Tennessee passing new legislation for self-defense rights.
"What people are failing to understand with constitutional carry is you still have an obligation to the rest of the community to be capable with that firearm,” said Grover. He owns Rev-Tac Firearm Instruction in Jackson, Nebraska and offers concealed carry classes for people in the tri-state.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don't recognize how little training they actually have. And so, it's important that you actually come to a class and learn."
Along with concealed carry laws varying by state, so does when and where you can carry. In Iowa, you can legally carry a firearm when you are drinking if your blood alcohol level is below .08%, but in Nebraska, you can’t carry at all if you consume alcohol.
For Grover and the team at Rev-Tac, they aren’t just teaching people how to properly shoot a handgun, but everything else that comes with wanting to conceal carry.
The best way that we do this is we teach the laws and then we can kind of teach the nuances of the different states,” Grover said. “You have to understand those laws as you travel and what you can and can't do.Along with the laws and regulation, the Rev-Tac team also talk about the emotional and mental ramifications that come should you fire your weapon at another person.
"We really focus on the awareness side of things,” Grover said. “We say that you'll win 100% of the fights that you don't get into. And so even though you have the tool on you which would be your, your firearm. Most people who carry after they come to this class, they learn other skills and so they don't even need that. They recognize when there's a threat way before it becomes something that would be deadly, and they also learn how to mitigate that threat and how to deescalate."
As Grover says, when you choose to carry a handgun for personal defense, you aren't just representing yourself, but everyone you encounter.
"You really need to make it a priority if you're going to carry for personal defense, you have an obligation to the rest of the gun community to be responsible with that,” Grover said, “so make sure you're doing it right, make sure your gears right, make sure your training is correct. and keep continually auditing those skills."
Never be the master always the student.If you would like to learn more about concealed carry laws and the laws in your state, visit usconcealedcarry.com.
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Web articles from my time at Siouxland News.