I was recently quoted in a Courier and Press article, entitled “Vanderburgh Sheriff Wedding Wades into Hot-Button Gun Rights Dispute“. I appreciate that reporter Tom Langhorne has covered this topic and would encourage you to read the full article as well as my message here tonight concerning where I stand on the issue of gun control.
As a long term National Rifle Association (NRA) member and supporter, I believe in gun owner rights. As an avid outdoors-man I also believe in hunter’s rights and as a 37 year veteran of law enforcement I believe in the right to self-defense. I donate to NRA causes, help sponsor the local NRA banquet and support the NRA’s mission to protect the 2nd Amendment. With over 5 million members, the NRA is indeed a powerful voice for gun rights supporters. That voice is not always unanimous however, as public polling has consistently shown that 70 to 80 percent of NRA members support universal background checks for gun ownership. Among the broad spectrum of NRA members, I fall into that majority category.
As Sheriff, I will always support the 2nd Amendment. I also support all the other 27 amendments, including the 1st Amendment (free speech), the 4th Amendment (protection from unreasonable searches) and the 6th Amendment (Rights of Criminal Defendants). With the guidance and oversight of our independent judiciaries, our elected government officials and law enforcement officers apply these amendments to everyday life during the course of each citizen’s interaction with the state.
Both locally and nationally, few issues engender such fierce debate as the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The meaning of the amendment’s 27 words, written nearly 230 years ago, continue to inspire impassioned arguments today. To be clear, the bill before the Indiana House of Representatives does not seek to expand or restrict who is eligible to obtain a handgun permit. Indiana House Bill 1643 does aim to defund the current gun permit statute in Indiana by abolishing the application fee. Of this bill, NRA-ILA Indiana State Director Chris Kopacki was quoted as saying, “There is no good reason why an honest, hard-working gun owner should be forced to pay $125 to exercise a fundamental right that ought to free…”
Unfortunately, the only way to determine whether a potential handgun permit holder is “honest” is by conducting a background check. Indiana law (both now and under the proposed bill) requires that a handgun permit be issued only to a “proper person” (Indiana Code 35-47-1-7). If everyone who applied for a handgun permit were honest, then this process would be unnecessary. In reality though, some handgun permit applicants lie about their criminal history, they lie about their current substance abuse habits and they lie about their propensity for violent or emotionally unstable conduct. Without handgun permit application fees, law enforcement agencies could not afford to conduct background checks on handgun permit applicants. This lack of funding would have to be made up in other ways, such as increased taxes. I do not believe it is fair or proper to increase taxes on non-gun owners or non-permit holders so that individuals who are seeking a handgun permit may do so without paying a fee.
So where do I stand? I stand with legal and responsible gun owners and support both their right to hunt and their right to self-protection. I also stand with non-gun owners who don’t want to pay for someone else to carry a handgun in public. And finally I stand with my fellow law enforcement officers whose safety is enhanced by the current Indiana State Police gun permit system. The system can instantly notify one of my deputies if a suspicious person he or she is dealing with at 2AM on a deserted county road is properly vetted and licensed to carry the handgun in their possession.
Sheriff of Vanderburgh County