Statistics on gun ownership and the cost of gun violence in the United States are staggering with an estimated 270 million firearms, or 90 guns for every 100 people, and a cost of $229 billion according to 2015 numbers from SmartGunLaws.org.
Since one of the central rights of every U.S. citizen is the right to keep and bear arms, it would seem that the discussion about limiting gun violence needs to center around gun responsibility and safety.
The Men in Blue Firearms Training Group of southwest Iowa is involved not only in the discussion of but in the training of gun owners as it pertains to gun laws, responsibility and safety.

Statistics on gun ownership and the cost of gun violence in the United States are staggering with an estimated 270 million firearms, or 90 guns for every 100 people, and a cost of $229 billion according to 2015 numbers from SmartGunLaws.org.


Since one of the central rights of every U.S. citizen is the right to keep and bear arms, it would seem that the discussion about limiting gun violence needs to center around gun responsibility and safety.


The Men in Blue Firearms Training Group of southwest Iowa is involved not only in the discussion of but in the training of gun owners as it pertains to gun laws, responsibility and safety.


With three to eight certification classes each month in southwest Iowa, instructors Trent Good and Jason Hayes are teaching an average of 30 people per class how to responsibly exercise their second amendment rights.


So, what’s involved in the training?


A reporter with the Hamburg Reporter attended a Men in Blue Permit to Carry Weapons class in Clarinda on Feb. 11, 2016.


The first things these gentlemen wanted to know from each participant was if they (were):
n “21 years or older;
n not addicted to alcohol or drugs;
n not convicted of using/displaying a dangerous weapon within the previous two years;
n not convicted of any Felony;
n not currently subject to any Protective Order;
n not convicted of Domestic Violence;
n not convicted of violating a Protective Order;
n have no convictions within the previous three years of any serious or aggravated misdemeanor;
n have no convictions in Federal Court pertaining to illegal transporting, shipping, or receiving firearms;
n have not been adjudicated a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness, and
n had undergone a training program (which was the purpose of the class).”


A wrong answer on any of these questions would have resulted in the attendee being unable to receive a training certificate, as well as unable to receive a permit to carry weapons.


Taking this class was not required to own a gun; many of those attending already owned one or more guns.  The purpose of the class was to train attendees in safe and legal handling and transportation of their guns (with a focus on handguns) on their person or with them when travelling.


An argument could be made here that persons committing crimes with guns are not generally doing so within their own homes, but rather in someone else’s home or out in public, therefore it is people travelling with guns in their possession who are the danger.  That is the reason for the screening of applicants by trainers, as well as the background check that  must be passed before an actual permit to carry is issued.


The class itself lasted for a couple of hours and consisted of watching some safety videos, learning about Iowa’s laws pertaining to the carrying of a weapon and the use of force, and a discussion of the reasons for owning and/or carrying weapons.


In Iowa there is no requirement to shoot a weapon to receive the training certificate, but the Men in Blue did have a laser training handgun on site that attendees could use.


Trainer Trent Good had been a Marine then a police officer for many years, before becoming a private security contractor at Offutt.  Good said there were three main things to remember about handguns, “ treat them all as if they’re loaded; keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot, and never point your weapon at anything or anyone that is irreplaceable.”


Good was a staunch supporter of the right to own firearms, perhaps even a proponent of a duty to own firearms.  He and Hayes gave statistics regarding gunfights pulled from the 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Statistics Report showing that “93 percent of gunfights lasted less than five seconds, and 97 percent involved less than five rounds shot, with 87 percent of those battles taking place at a distance of less than five feet.”  Simplified, they explained, that meant that most incidents involving firearms were “unanticipated, reactions were almost too late, and they took place in very close proximity.”


Both men agreed that “when seconds count, cops are just minutes away.”  Having been an officer himself, Good explained that this was not derision of law enforcement but simple truth in our understaffed, sprawled out rural areas.


Good was also adamant about maintaining the right to own firearms as a way of ensuring the accountability of our own government.  “What happens when you live in a society that forbids guns,” he asked, and answered, “you get a government with unchecked power and a monopoly of violence.”


Both Good and Hayes expressed respect for law enforcement, and covered thoroughly the correct way to let law officers know that you have a permit to carry and are carrying a weapon.


Both men advised getting training with any gun owned in order to become competent and confident, saying “with your right comes responsibility.”


In a discussion after the class, the trainers said there had been some increase in the number of people taking their classes recently, and they had definitely seen an increase in the number of women coming.  “Women used to make up 10-20 percent of a class,” Hayes said, “now it’s more like 40-45 percent.”


Both men said the reason most people were taking the class was for convenience and personal protection, but that there was a big misconception out there that people with a permit always have a gun on hand, and most really only carry occasionally.


Upon receiving a certificate from this class at the end of the evening, the next step was to go to the County Sheriff’s office to apply for a permit to carry.  In Fremont County that consisted of filling out one sheet of paper, passing over a copy of the training certificate and a check for $60, then waiting for a background check to come back.


Surprisingly, the background check took all of about five minutes, and upon clearing, a picture was taken, and a plastic “Iowa Non-Professional Permit to Carry Weapons” much like a driver’s license, was handed over.


While waiting on the background check, Dispatcher Cole Tackett looked up the number of permits in Fremont County, saying there were around 920 permits to carry in the County, or approximately 16 percent of the eligible population.  Despite the large number of people in the county with a permit to carry, Sheriff Kevin Aistrope said that as a general rule only about 30 percent of them were actually carrying their weapons with them.


Aistrope was another strong supporter of the peoples’ right to own firearms, saying, “I’m a firm believer, if you’re capable of using a gun you should have one in your house.  You should be able to protect yourself.  The reality is that this county is approximately 25 miles by 25 miles, and we’re just about the only law enforcement in the county.  We will respond to your call as quickly as we can, but if we’re on the other side of the county, it could take a while.”


He did admit that there were people in the county he’d rather didn’t own guns or have permits to carry them, but he said he’d still stand by their right to do so.  


“Most of the people who are coming in here getting permits to carry are upstanding, law-abiding citizens,” Aistrope said.  “The ones that are out there shooting cops and killing people didn’t go through this process and likely got their guns illegally anyway.  You don’t take rights away from good people when it’s not going to stop the bad ones,” he finished.


Like the permit to carry instructors, though, Aistrope suggested people should get training with firearms, and said that he did wish that Iowans were required to actually shoot a gun and be certified for doing so to get a permit to carry.