America's gun debate has been at a fever pitch since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. While the grander discussion has centered on national laws that would more strictly govern who should be allowed to carry or even possess firearms, some more specific and complex local issues are emerging. In Iowa, for instance, state law allows sex offenders to obtain guns.
A two-year-old regulatory structure apparently permits misdemeanor offenders to carry in public, a loophole of sorts that has created quite a stir. With the current discussion about firearms reverberating from the nation's capital to the state and local levels, it's no surprise that some police and lawmakers are speaking out against this allowance.
As USA Today notes, prominent authorities have expressed safety concerns, as 50 offenders in Iowa have been granted permits. The debate that is unfolding is a confounding one that meshes together personal freedoms, crime prevention and gun control.
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Steve Conlon, the deputy unit chief of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit's Evil Minds Research Museum in Quantico, Virginia, told the outlet that the loophole allowing sex offenders to purchase and possess guns seems counter-intuitive. He also noted that the issue is relatively unique and that it hasn't been talked about too fervently.
"It does seem to go contrary to what the whole point or the whole purpose [of a sex offender registry is]," said Conlon, who plans to speak with other officials about the issue. "I've never even heard of anybody looking into this arena. You're in some unchartered grounds."
Below, see an interview with a registered sex offender who carries a gun:
The issue at the center of the debate is a law that apparently changed in 2011. At that time and before it, sheriffs could deny weapons permits for sex offenders, however these authorities no longer have the ability to do so. In the end, this means, as USA Today notes, that those convicted of misdemeanor sex crimes are able to enjoy their Second Amendment rights.
There are some obvious fears and issues at hand here. While some would argue for the freedom of firearms for everyone (depending on the nature of a crime, of course), if registered assailants are repeat offenders, it's concerning to consider the notion that these individuals would have access to guns -- weapons that could be used to force victims into compliance.
This is the very point that Detective Rob Burdess, a Newton official, and the president of the Iowa State Police Association made in questioning the rationale of allowing sex offenders to carry guns in public.
"If they're on the sex offender registry, they're already a safety concern in one aspect," he said. "Who's to say they're not a safety concern with weapons? They've already shown propensity to be sexually violent, so the escalation can be the use of weapons."
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Despite the dismay that some officials have shown at learning of Iowa's lax gun regulation, it seems the state isn't alone in allowing sex offenders to carry. USA Today has more:
However, a review of states surrounding Iowa found that some sex offenders can obtain permits to carry weapons even though authorities said they aren't aware of a large number being issued. Those states -- including Nebraska, Missouri and Wisconsin -- have laws similar to Iowa's that do not specifically exclude sex offenders from obtaining such permits.
Minnesota law, however, makes it a misdemeanor for a person required to register as a sex offender to carry a handgun.
Despite the push-back, some might argue that individuals found guilty of sexual crimes have a lower recidivism rate and, thus, are not as dangerous or as likely to relapse into crime. Still, considering that people with felonies or domestic abuse charges are generally exempt from gun ownership, critics and experts like Burdess wonder why sex offenders should be treated any different.
What do you think? Take the poll, below, and read more about this intriguing story here.
(H/T: Des Moines Register)
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- sex offenders
- sex offender registry