DELANEY: The long view: Licensing makes sense

May 6, 2017

DEBATE QShould Indiana eliminate the requirement that a person who is otherwise legally allowed to carry a handgun obtain a license to do so?


AIn recent sessions of the Indiana General Assembly, a concern has arisen that our state’s gun laws are too restrictive.

This concern manifests itself in vehicles like this session’s House Bill 1071.

In its original form, the bill focused on enabling a person who obtained a protective order—such as a victim of domestic violence—to have a temporary permit to carry a handgun for 60 days, pending the issuance of a permanent license.

Its content led to a rollicking discussion in the Indiana House about the wisdom of providing easy access to handguns to people in the midst of a highly charged domestic crisis. This did not deter passage of the bill, and I will not join the chorus of critics who suggested that advocates of this measure were hiding behind domestic violence in pursuit of a broader goal.

The bill also includes a call to study Indiana laws on handguns. The language of the bill demands closer scrutiny. It is suggested that a committee be formed to handle “the task of studying the repeal of the law that requires a person to obtain a license to carry a handgun in Indiana.”

The word “carry” is critical. Anyone who passes the federal NICS background screening already can purchase a handgun and keep it at home or at work for personal protection. The issue is whether one can carry it about in public or private places, either openly or concealed.

Indiana has a system enabling law enforcement to issue a license for carrying a handgun beyond home or work. (Of course, such a right is limited by the rights of property owners to disallow guns.)

Law enforcement has some discretion to refuse a license or to revoke one that has already been issued. These denials can be based upon such objective measures as criminal convictions, as well as broader concerns, such as alcohol or drug abuse or a violent temperament. Tens of thousands of Hoosiers, male and female, hold these licenses, which have been issued in growing numbers.

So why study a “repeal” of this law?

There has been no outcry that licenses are being denied or revoked willy-nilly. The law is supported by logic. Weapons can be dangerous and attention needs to be paid to who has them and how they are used. This is hardly a novel idea. The whole idea of licensing underpins much of our society. Look at our regulation of drivers or licensing of professionals. The genius of licensing is that it can restrict the actions of those likely to abuse a car, a gun or a client. The threat of losing one’s license leads to improved behavior. Do you drive more carefully if your points put your license in jeopardy?

Some will claim that licenses violate the Constitution. Well, apparently, Legislatures all over America just didn’t understand the Constitution for all those years when they imposed licensing requirements. They thought it permitted honest efforts to protect the general public. If we have this study, let’s think about that.•


Ed DeLaney is a Democratic lawmaker from Indianapolis. He represents District 86 in the Indiana House. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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