Greene County sheriff Jack Williams and Jefferson police chief Mark Clouse agree that new gun legislation signed into law by Governor Branstad last week could hinder their efforts in schools. They disagree on the impact the “stand your ground” language could have in public places. Republicans, including Branstad, say the changes return the Second Amendment right to bear arms to the people.
The law allows certified peace officers with a carry permit to go armed anywhere in the state, including on school grounds.
Williams and Clouse both point out that it can take up to a year for an officer to obtain certification through the Law Enforcement Academy. The sheriff’s office and the JPD currently have new hires. “In small communities, those guys work shifts until they go to the academy, and that can take six months. Now we can’t have them working shifts because if there’s something at a school, they can’t take their gun with them,” Williams said.
Clouse has the same concern. “What if he (a new officer) is working during an active shooter incident at the school and he doesn’t respond to save the lives of children?” he said.
Both said that will be changed in the legislative session that starts next January.
The new law changes where deadly force is allowed. Iowa in the past has allowed a person to use deadly force to defend himself in his home. Otherwise, there was a “duty to retreat.” The new law allows a person to “stand his ground,” that is to defend himself, in a public place.
Williams said on Monday he didn’t have a lot of information about the new law, but that in other states that have implemented “Stand your Ground” laws, like Texas, crime has decreased.
He said he’s heard opinions there will be a mass killing spree. “It’s not,” Williams said. When the law changed a few years ago requiring sheriff’s to issue concealed weapons permits, there was concern, he said, “but we haven’t had any problems with that yet. I don’t really foresee any problems with this. You’ll have the right to protect yourself.”
Although Iowans can now stand their ground, “if you can safely get out of a situation and call law enforcement, that is best,” Clouse said.
He said allowing the use of deadly force “puts unneeded stress on law enforcement and courts to try and determine this. How do we ever prove that you did not fear death from the unknown object a person was holding as they approached you in a threatening manner?” he asked.
“This change will probably not be an issue as far as law abiding citizens go, but what about the bad elements in our society? Can they not use this new language to have access to murder of opposing gang members, etc?,” he continued.
In Iowa, the county sheriff is elected on a partisan ballot. Williams is a Republican. The chief of police is a non-partisan position appointed by the mayor.