Commonsensical Hoosier self-defense


I will defend myself.

I do not claim that as a “right.” I merely state it as a fact. It is a biological imperative  — is it not? — for an individual to decline to submit meekly to the murderous intent of others.

To that end, I possess a license to carry a handgun issued by the state of Indiana. I know many of my fellow licensees dislike revealing that, but it’s a matter of public record, so I don’t see the point. As to whether I actually carry a handgun, that will remain my secret, for the time being.

Now, the Indiana House has voted to allow “constitutional carry” in the state, meaning no license would be required for walking around with a handgun. The Senate and governor have yet to weigh in, but the topic has been opened for discussion.

And I admit to mixed feelings, which might surprise the gun-control crowd and alarm my gun-rights friends.

At this point, I know, those of you always calling for “common sense gun laws” are screaming about historical context and the Founders’ real intent.

So, fine, let’s see if we can disambiguate the Second Amendment a little bit, shall we? (Which annoys me no end, by the way. On any other important policy, you’re all for a “living, breathing Constitution,” but on this issue and this issue alone, you suddenly care about “original intent”? Please.)

Suppose I were to concede that the Founders, by prefacing the “right to keep and bear arms” phrase with the “well-regulated militia being necessary” qualifier did actually intend a collective right rather than an individual one, that they truly meant to arm citizens as members of state militias.

But then we have to examine why they did that.

The Second Amendment, indeed the whole of the Bill of Rights, was aimed at curbing the power of Congress, insisted on by Constitutional Convention delegates profoundly afraid of too much centralized power. One of the strongest transfers of power from the states to the federal government, in comparing the Constitution to the Articles of Confederation, was the creation of a standing army controlled federally. So, the states demanded control of their own militias.

And by extension, if you follow this “original intent” argument, the states would control the keeping and bearing of arms, with no “infringement” by the federal government.

So, gun control was meant to be a state issue. Can you acknowledge that even if you don’t like it?

The Indiana Constitution’s language on guns is clear and direct. Article I, Section 32 provides that “the people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State.” No namby-pamby qualifier there. People have a right, yes, an individual right, to defend themselves.

Within the bounds of common sense, of course.

The Indiana Supreme Court has on numerous occasions ruled that the right to bear arms is subject to “reasonable regulation,” and “reasonable” is a subjective term we may argue about all day. On the one hand, the court ruled that a person’s mere possession of a gun is no reason to detain someone while it is verified whether the person has a carry permit. On the other hand, the court has validated the state’s “red flag” law that allows at least temporary confiscation of the guns of someone merely accused of being unfit.

So, while it is reasonable for the state to require carry permits (and the court has so ruled), it is also reasonable for it to end the requirement.

And, as I said, I have mixed feelings.

Removing the requirement should not affect public safety. The people not allowed to carry now (such as perpetrators of domestic abuse) still would not be able to carry. And those of us who are law-abiding citizens won’t have to pay fees and go through hoops to earn our self-defense.

But I can see the move making things harder for law enforcement, and it would also complicate things for gun carriers crossing state lines. It is already necessary to figure out which states have a reciprocal agreement regarding Indiana’s carry permits. Trying to deal with interstate travel without a permit would be even more problematic.

So, whichever way it goes, I can accept it. I can deal with it.

What I will not do, with or without a state-issued permit, is give up my ability to defend myself. Why that is not a universal sentiment is a true puzzle.

Estimates vary, but there are at least 400 million guns in America. More than 100 million of them are handguns. We will never get rid of them, and, furthermore, we cannot wipe the knowledge of guns out of our collective human consciousness.

So what matters is who has the guns and what they intend to do with them. “Gun control” should more properly be called “gun owner control.” Most policies I’ve seen that are called “common sense” would make it harder for law-abiding gun owners and easier for the predators who use guns against the rest of us.

So, tell me about a policy that wouldn’t in effect disarm the wrong people and I’ll listen. To state legislators only, please.

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at [email protected].

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