From permitless carry to red flag laws: Indiana legislation shows 2 sides of gun control debate

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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories MyWabashValley.com is presenting taking a look at the conversation surrounding guns.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Jennifer Haan is disappointed with the direction some Indiana lawmakers took on the issue of gun control this legislative session.

“We had seven permitless carry bills this year,” Haan said, “When we saw that in January, we knew what we were in for this year. This is a trend that’s happening all across the nation and it’s a backlash to what we’re seeing at the federal level.”

Haan, who is part of Moms Demand Action’s Indiana chapter, was referring to recent executive actions announced by President Biden earlier this month.

Among those executive actions was a call for model red flag legislation, which Indiana implemented in 2012 in the form of the Jake Laird Law. The legislation aims to keep people deemed dangerous or mentally unstable from obtaining guns.

Biden’s executive actions also called for a comprehensive report on gun trafficking.

In Indiana, Haan explained that the bills regarding permitless carry would remove the requirement for Hoosiers to have a permit in order to carry a handgun.

Permitless carry laws are already in place in 20 states, including Kentucky and Missouri.

ISU legal studies professor David Bolk said the effort to preserve individual gun rights is a newer trend for this part of the country.

“Historically, the south and the west were the ones who had the more liberal gun laws, meaning less restrictions on individuals, but I think the Midwest is fast catching up,” Bolk said.

Bolk said the Second Amendment was not always viewed as something regarding individual rights. He points to two constitutional laws in the 21st century that really opened up that conversation and established some of the current limitations.

“In 2010, there was a Supreme Court case that said that individuals in states have a right to have a handgun in their home for self protection; that’s really the extent of it. The case before it in 2008, even those cases said, look, governments can still, legislatures can still limit that right.”

Bolk said the issue of gun control comes down, to a certain extent, to judicial lawmaking.

“You can’t have a general prohibition of handguns in homes,” Bolk said, “You can restrict it, but the question then becomes what about other places? Are other places like homes? Is your church like home, is your school like home, is any business like home? It’s going to be up to the courts then to say whether those areas are covered or not.”

Haan pointed to data regarding gun violence when sharing her thoughts on legislation.

“Indiana loses 1,000 Hoosiers a year to gun violence,” Haan said, wincing. “What are we doing? Why aren’t we having empathy for the people who are asking for these laws?”

Haan went on to share some examples of people who should not be able to get heir hands on firearms, including an eerie nod to those younger than 21 years old, such as the 19-year-old shooter who killed eight people and then shot himself on April 15 in Indianapolis. The interview with Haan was conducted prior to that deadly shooting.

“We should be doing everything we can to make sure that people that want to do evil cannot get these guns, that children who are not of rational mind when they’re 17, 18, 19 years old can easily get a gun,” she said.

Haan did reference some legislation she supported regarding guns, including a safe storage bill that she said would’ve made it more difficult for children and other vulnerable people to access guns. That bill, and other bills Haan said would have restricted the availability of guns to the average person, did not pass through the Statehouse.

MyWabashValley.com did reach out to four legislators who authored or sponsored bills regarding gun rights and ownership this session; each one either declined to comment or did not respond.

For a list of all proposed legislation from the 2021 legislative session in Indianapolis, including bills related to firearms, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website.

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