Those who would allow Hoosiers to carry a loaded handgun without a permit argue that the Indiana Constitution requires it.
Indeed, the wording of Section 32 of the Indiana Bill of Rights is even more clear than the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“The people,” the state document reads, “shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State.”
Hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers have chosen to exercise that right by obtaining a license to carry a handgun from the Indiana State Police. The process involves filling out a form online, paying a fee and being fingerprinted by local law enforcement to facilitate a background check. The overwhelming majority of applications are approved – 134,290 during 2016, the Associated Press reported. Authorities rejected 4,802 applications because applicants had serious criminal histories or mental health issues.
State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, believes the current process – indeed, any process – interferes with gun owners attempting to exercise their constitutional rights. Lucas is pushing the legislature to adopt a bill that would allow law-abiding citizens to carry guns without a permit.
On Wednesday, at the first of three interim study committee meetings to consider the “constitutional carry” concept, Lucas' proposal ran into a buzz saw of opposition from police officials and organizations.
One of those who testified against Lucas' proposal was Kendallville Police Chief Rob Wiley, immediate past president of the Indiana Association of Police Chiefs. Wiley said the current law “is a very Second Amendment-friendly law, quite frankly, while still allowing law enforcement to do what it needs to do, which is protect the general public,” the AP reported. Another opponent was State Police Maj. Mike White, who said eliminating background checks could increase the dangers to police officers.
As Fort Wayne and other parts of Indiana struggle with a continuing plague of gun violence, the permitting system allows police in potentially perilous situations to determine quickly whether an armed person is a law-abiding citizen. That, it could be argued, actually protects those who are exercising their gun rights, along with enhancing public safety.
The right to bear arms is indeed a basic constitutional right. But like the national Constitution, the state document also begins with the recognition that all citizens have the inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Does that mean one citizen has the right to pursue “happiness” by driving an automobile without a license? By eating at a restaurant without paying for the meal? Of course not.
In a free society, government still has the obligation to protect other drivers from an unsafe driver, to prevent customers from ripping off restaurant operators and to prevent criminals and those with mental illness from carrying handguns.
A poll for Everytown for Gun Safety by the nonpartisan Survey USA asked Hoosiers how they felt about gun laws. Among the results:
• 90 percent said they strongly support or support requiring a permit to carry a handgun in Indiana.
• 71 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported removing that requirement.
Read the survey results at: