The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, January 12, 2022 1:00 am


Misguided aim

Local lawmaker's bill eliminating gun licenses alarmingly decreases Hoosiers' safety

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

It was 2005 when the Indiana General Assembly passed a law requiring Hoosier voters to present a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot.

At the time, the American Civil Liberties Union called it the “most-restrictive-in-the-nation voter identification law” and appealed it to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Jan. 9, 2008, the justices ruled the new voter ID law constitutional by a 6-3 vote.

“Because Indiana's [identification] cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters' right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens for the majority.

Besides – as one argument popular with Indiana advocates of the voter ID requirement went – those same voters need a photo ID to rent a movie from Blockbuster. How could the presentation of a driver's license to vote be a problem for the poor, elderly or disabled?

This week, the Indiana House has been hearing testimony on HB 1077, Republican Rep. Ben Smaltz's bill that would repeal state law requiring handgun owners to obtain a license to carry their weapon. The bill was in its third reading Tuesday, ready for a final House vote.

It passed 63-29, and would allow anyone not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm under law, such as a convicted felon, to carry a loaded handgun. The gun legally could be carried openly or concealed from sight, on one's person, in a handbag or in a vehicle.

Nixing the permit requirement would be welcomed by gun owners apprehensive of being on a government list, Nik Clark, president of Wisconsin Carry, a Milwaukee-based gun rights organization, told The Pew Charitable Trusts in December.

“We have a human right to self-defense,” Clark said. “To say that you need permission from the government to do that is crazy. It's anti-American.”

To Second Amendment advocates and most of Indiana's Statehouse Republicans, filling out an online application, getting fingerprinted at an Indiana State Police post, and taking those prints to your local police department is just too much trouble for gun owners.

It's OK to mandate a state or federal photo ID to cast a vote in Indiana. But it's government overreach to require a license to carry a loaded gun to church, or a restaurant, or on a city bus.

Indiana State Police Maj. Rob Simpson testified in opposition to HB 1077 last week, telling lawmakers the agency has stopped more than 10,000 people who are not legally allowed to carry a firearm from getting a gun license.

“We have a system that works, and that's why we still stand opposed to this particular bill,” Simpson said.

But that doesn't matter. Not this year.

Last year, a permitless carry bill authored by Smaltz, R-Auburn, cleared the House but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Sen. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne. This year, Brown authored a similar bill of her own, SB 14.

Twenty-two states already allow gun owners to carry their handguns without a license. Indiana will be No. 23.

That cake is baked.

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