“The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” is the mantra I have been listening to for years from guns rights advocates. It’s a silly little quip that looks good on a bumper sticker or a t-shirt, but really has no logical place in an adult discussion about community, policing or human behavior. My standard response to it over the years has been, “a good guy with a gun is only good until he’s not.”
With the passage of House Bill 1296 by the Indiana General Assembly this week, which creates a “permitless” or “constitutional” carry framework for handguns in the state, Hoosiers have basically declared all guys “good.” It’s sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for anyone in the state who would otherwise be allowed to carry a gun if licensing still existed. What I mean by that is that this bill slightly refines what state law will be in determining who can legally carry a gun, but eliminates the state’s determination that any of those details are actually true. Why shouldn’t we just assume that every eighteen-year-old is entirely compliant with the 34-page bill that defines his or her compliance?
I don’t remember my eighteenth birthday, but I remember being eighteen. I had some qualities then, and there were definitely moments when I was undeniably good. But in the length of time it took me to reminisce while writing this paragraph, several regretful lapses in judgement have peppered that idyllic memory lane. The long hair and earring I wore in the small town I lived in then gave the adults working at the grocery store reason to ask what my deal was when I was buying a six-pack of Coke. I can only imagine the conversations if I had been trying to buy a SIG Sauer P365, winner of the 2019 NRA Handgun of the Year award.
Getting to the point, there is no logic behind the argument that more guns with less regulation or information on those possessing them will make our community safer. Community is the important word there. Guns rights folks can yell and scream all they want about how their own personal safety is enhanced when they are armed. But this is a public policy debate, not a personal choice one. The personal choice to become armed was already available. The Indiana General Assembly had already made licensing free-of-charge a year ago, which quite possibly is more ludicrous than House Bill 1296 because of the obvious cost that the mere presence of guns cause.
The author of the original language to establish the permitless carry policy is Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn). The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported that he surveyed his constituents before the legislative session on the issue, asking them: “Do you believe Hoosiers who are legally permitted to possess a handgun should be able to carry a handgun in public without first applying for and obtaining a state issued license?” 64% of them responded with “no,” while only 31% said “yes.” Similar responses were gathered from the surveys of other legislators who supported the measure. In a time of super majorities in the Indiana Statehouse, it appears the minority is in charge on this one.
Let’s not forget the police. Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter spoke to a Senate Committee in February, stating: “It’s often so easy to talk about your support for public safety. But if you choose to support this bill, you will not be supporting us.” Carter is a Republican and a supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Lafayette Police Chief Pat Flannelly commented about the bill this week, adding, “This isn’t going to end well, I’m afraid,” as reported by Dave Bangert of Based In Lafayette. Law enforcement officials across the country commonly take this position on the matter.
Sadly, like constituents and communities, legislators can also easily ignore law enforcement experts when it suits them. It begs the question: “why does it suit them?”
There is no measurable way to conclude that this law makes Indiana a safer place. Or a more inviting and attractive place. Or a well-governed place. Not that any of that matters. It only makes Indiana another example of how the influence of the dying NRA and other gun industry organizations is more important than the rational citizenry. You know, “good guys” with a voice.
And those good guys will be good until they vote to reelect people who have already ignored them.
Once the good guys in the super majorities stop listening to their voters and experts, they are no longer good either. On Election Day, they should be treated accordingly.