Why I Carry

Reciprocity and proselytizing, No. 9, 7 January, 2001

by Paul Hager © 2001

IC Title 35, Article 47, Chapter 2. Regulation of Handguns

Article I, Section 32, Indiana Constitution

IC 35-47-2-21(b) Licenses to carry handguns, issued by other states or foreign countries, will be recognized according to the terms thereof but only while the holders are not residents of Indiana.

One of the side benefits of my campaign is that it often brings me in contact with people who either support the right of self-defense or are inclined in our direction. Supporters range from those who are activists themselves to those who quietly exercise their right. The other group includes many who generally support the right but may have reservations and questions they'd like answered. Some of these people I meet "on the street" and some via my website and through the medium of email. For this week's journal entry, I'll focus on my discussions with two different young women. One of them carries and the other is thinking of carrying.

The first of these women is currently staying in Indiana for an indeterminate period to be with a sick relative. She is an undergraduate at Florida State University and has a Florida carry license. Naturally she wants to be able to carry her pistol in Indiana and she wanted to know what she had to do in order to "be legal."

As it happens, Indiana is one of the more enlightened states in that it has a very liberal carry law. I cite the relevant provision of the Indiana Code above. Indiana will recognize any valid license so long as the holder of said license is not an Indiana resident. I was thus able to tell the university student that, for the duration of her visit, she could exercise her right of self-defense in Indiana without impediment.

One thing that stands out about this provision of the Indiana Code is the use of the word "licenses." What about Vermont, which allows its citizens to carry without any sort of license? Are Vermont residents denied their rights in Indiana because there is no license issued by their state, or does proof of Vermont residence/citizenship take the place of a license? I haven't looked for a case that deals with this or sought out a legal opinion -- for now I'm not going to pursue the matter. If any readers of this series would like to investigate, I'll be happy to include any findings they send to me in a future article.

The problem of the way different states' laws deal with a fundamental right cries out for a national standard. It will be recalled that I began to think seriously about this after a wrong turn took me across the Wabash into Illinois while I was carrying. There are two constitutional ways that Congress could address this problem. The first would be to invoke the "full faith and credit" provision of Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. It reads:

"Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."

An example of this is that states recognize other states' marriage licenses. Congress may act to enforce "full faith and credit" to create what is in effect a national standard. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas authored legislation in the 106th Congress, pursuant to Article IV, Section 1, to create national reciprocity for carry. So far as I know, this legislation didn't go anywhere and would have to be reintroduced in the 107th Congress. Depending upon how the legislation was drafted, one could end up with one state able to issue licenses to anyone, whether in-state or out-of-state, that would have to be recognized by all other states.

The better approach in my view is to invoke Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. It reads:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The 14th Amendment prevents the states from depriving U.S. citizens of the protections of the Bill of Rights and other "privileges and immunities." The federal government could require all states to establish a shall-issue, licensed carry system like Indiana's or an unlicensed carry system like Vermont's. A major drawback to using the 14th Amendment in this way is political. Conservatives are generally loath to use the power of the 14th Amendment even when they concede it exists. Article IV, Section 1 is more a matter of the federal government mediating for the states and avoids all of the political problems associated with addressing the fact that the 2nd Amendment is incorporated by the 14th.

My second discussion was with a divorced, single mother who is an Indiana resident. She has owned a gun in the past, but is disinclined to have one in the house now because she is afraid that her 7-year-old daughter might find the gun and injure herself. It is perfectly understandable that she has that fear, since anti-gun propaganda appearing in the media makes it sound as though large numbers of kids are accidentally injuring and killing themselves with the family gun. Actually, guns in the house are very low on the list of risks to which children are exposed at home and in school, ranking below stairways, bicycles, playgrounds, and organized school sports among many others. I pointed this out and noted that the accident rate for guns has been declining fairly consistently for around 50 years.

U.S. children have grown up with guns in the home for our entire history (this is also true of children in Switzerland and Israel where many children grow up with machine guns in the home). The best way to avoid an accident is for a parent to educate the kids about guns. I told the woman that this was how my wife and I dealt with our daughters. I recommended some sources she could access to check the veracity of my statements.

She then revealed that she had actually been reconsidering her no gun policy because she had been the victim of an assault and attempted rape in her home. A strange man broke into her home in the middle of the night. Fortunately, her daughter was not with her at the time. The man roughed her up and said he was going to rape her. He also said that he would kill her so there wouldn't be a "witness." Although he kept telling her to be quiet, she talked to him and told him that neighborhood watch almost certainly had detected the break-in. She was able to keep talking to him and this had the effect of stopping the attack. She said she'd help him to escape. In the end, the man left without raping her and headed off into the night. When she was later questioned by the police, she said that they treated her almost as though she was at fault. Rather than commend her for being calm and talking her way out of a desperate situation, they acted as though she shouldn't have made it so easy for the guy to get away. As she described the situation, it was almost like being victimized a second time.

Of course, this woman was extremely lucky -- something that she readily acknowledges. Until we talked, she was wrestling with two perceived risks: the risk to her daughter if she got a gun for self-defense and the risk of another break-in, this time with fatal consequences, if she didn't. She said that she had begun to think about gun shopping but she had no idea of what sort of gun would be suitable. This, I noted, was a problem that my wife and I had to deal with when my wife was considering what sort of gun to carry. We had gone through a large number of potential self-defense guns before settling on what she now carries, a Glock 19. I offered to introduce the woman to some women I know who carry and would be able to help her select a gun/carry system with which she would be comfortable.

For now, that's where this woman's story ends. I'll provide an update in the future if there is more to report.

As a sort of postscript, I note that today's Indianapolis Star has an Associated Press article in the City/State section dealing with my open-carry program. The article is titled, "Gun toter says he's aiming at a principle." It is an almost verbatim version of the article that appeared in the Bloomington Herald-Times a couple of weeks ago. We're going national!