For six years I lived in constant fear of a stalker. He harassed me, in person and online, at all hours of the day and night. I notified police and made several reports. A judge even granted me a protective order. But still, the stalking and harassment continued. I truly felt all alone. He was slowly taking my life from me.
It wasn't until the death threats began that I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. I got a gun. Indiana law allowed me to have it in my home for protection, but I could not take it with me outside my home without a state handgun permit.
It generally takes about 60 days to get a handgun permit in Indiana, but mine took longer, and I've heard of cases where it takes months to process. That is unacceptable for victims of stalkers or domestic abusers. They need more than just a piece of paper to protect themselves.
I recently shared my story with state lawmakers who are considering changing the law to allow victims such as myself to temporarily carry a handgun until their permanent permit is issued. I told lawmakers that I will not live in fear again. I should have the option to defend myself.
But this isn't just about me. Every person whose life is in danger should be able to protect themselves. That is why I am supporting House Bill 1071 in the Indiana legislature this year. We should all decide to unite, empower and protect victims.
I was disappointed to hear a gun control advocate last month tell lawmakers that victims shouldn't be able to defend themselves. Laura Berry of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence described self-defense as “vigilantism.”
Berry cited a study widely used by gun control groups funded by New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg. The groups claim victims of domestic abuse are five times more likely to die in domestic violence situations when a gun is present.
What they don't tell you is that this study relies on what they call a “knowledgeable proxy” to answer questions about the deceased woman's killer, such as “did your husband do drugs” or “abuse alcohol” or “have access to a gun,” “was he employed.”
Self-reporting for studies is notoriously unreliable. But asking a “knowledgeable proxy,” whatever that is, is even more absurd and unreliable.
Additionally, the sample size for the study – 220 homicide victims and 340 in the control group (women who were abused, but not killed) – is too small to be a statistically reliable sample.
Victims of domestic abuse and stalkers need more than a restraining order to protect themselves. They should be allowed immediate access to a handgun in the days after they get that order. That is when victims are most vulnerable. Taking legal action, such as obtaining a protective order, can really escalate the situation and enrage an abuser. In my case, that's when the harassment got worse and the death threats began.
HB 1071 would empower victims by allowing them to take back control of their lives. It is hard when everything about you is taken from you and you feel you have no control. I remember feeling utterly helpless.
Firearms are known as the great equalizer and for good reason. When I got a firearm, I finally felt a sense of control again. I knew that if he entered my home, I could defend myself. HB 1071 would give victims that same opportunity to defend themselves outside their homes.
Fort Wayne resident Dawn Hillyer is owner of HidingHilda, a local company that manufactures and sells concealed-carry purses and other firearms accessories.