Why I Carry

The most hated man in Bloomington, No. 13, 11 February, 2001

by Paul Hager © 2001

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

Article I, Section 32, Indiana Constitution

I got together with my friend and fellow libertarian, Steve Dillon, a few days ago and chatted about our favorite topic: politics. For those readers who are not Hoosiers, allow me to proffer the following brief recital of Steve's activities on behalf of personal freedom over the past twenty-plus years. Steve founded Indiana NORML (an affiliate of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) and is its current president as well as being a member of the national board. He's also worked nationally for the Fully Informed Jury Amendment (FIJA), an organization that seeks to educate the public on the rights of jurors to judge both the facts of a case and the law behind it. Steve was an early member of the Indiana Libertarian Party and has tirelessly worked to build it into an organization that will contend on an equal footing with the Republican and Democrat parties. In 1994 he ran for Indiana Secretary of State and got enough votes to win ballot status for the LP. He ran again in 1998 and increased his vote percentage which maintained ballot status for the next 4 years. When Steve ran for Secretary of State in 1994, he was 1 of only 5 LP candidates on the ballot. In the 2000 election, over 100 candidates were on the ballot and a number of Libertarians have now won office at the municipal level. Steve is a criminal defense attorney with a practice in Indianapolis. He moved to Monroe County (Bloomington) and ran for Circuit Judge in 2000 against a 22-year incumbent. Although he lost, he got close to 30% of the vote.

Early in our conversation, Steve commented on how often my name seems to come up in an unfavorable context when he talks to people in Monroe County. (For example, when he ran for judge, he spoke to a group of Democratic women students at Indiana University who grilled him about environmental policy and the "extreme views of [U.S. Senate candidate] Paul Hager".) His latest encounter was with a fellow who said that he had voted for him in the Circuit Judge race. The fellow went on to say that he liked a lot about Libertarians but had a real problem with that Paul Hager guy who was carrying a gun to a day care. I laughed and said, "Steve, don't you know that I'm the most hated man in Bloomington?"

If it does nothing else, political activism sharpens ones sense of irony. For over a year, members of an extremist environmental group calling itself the Earth Liberation Front have been engaging in arson, tree-spiking, and other acts of vandalism in and around Bloomington. Apologists for these eco-fascists have had letters and guest editorials published in the Herald-Times arguing that there is a greater good that justifies their actions. Violating people's rights or putting people's lives in danger is apparently acceptable, yet these same apologists, some of whom I know directly or indirectly, would be quick to condemn my program of open carry. My action is entirely legal and peaceful and is intended to promote the idea that individuals must be free to exercise their right of self-defense. I carry a tool capable of projecting lethal force but do so to encourage other people to empower themselves. The eco-fascists wish to disempower everyone but themselves, and to intimidate anyone who disagrees with them.

Zealots and true believers always invoke some higher power, whether it be god, mother earth, or historical inevitability, to which they are answerable and whose purpose they serve. Throughout history, people certain of the righteousness of their cause have perpetrated unspeakable horrors on their fellow men. As I wrote in Your friends and neighbors, the evidence on my side demonstrating the societal benefit of citizens owning and/or carrying a gun for self-defense is compelling; the evidence on the other side is non-existent. Yet, I must always accept the possibility that new evidence will emerge that may ultimately prove me wrong. In contrast, true believers never entertain the possibility that they might be wrong. For them, ends justify any means used to achieve them. Libertarians explicitly repudiate the idea that ends ever justify means. We take an oath to forswear the initiation of force in order to achieve any political or social goal. This requires us to use only the tools of argument and persuasion. Arms are purely for defense. We don't initiate force directly or by proxy -- we only respond if attacked. The ultimate irony is that when true believers prevail, and have the power of government behind them, people of goodwill better have guns to defend themselves.

When I responded to Steve, I was engaging in hyperbole. Clearly, I am hated in some quarters, but for the most part the general response from people around town seems to be indifference. Several different outings over the past two weeks have elicited no reaction whatsoever. The one I expected to generate some controversy was a play my oldest daughter was in that I attended at Montessori. In advance of this event, I called a teacher who I knew would be sympathetic to the cause. We discussed what I was doing and why and, as I foresaw, the teacher was supportive. However, neither of us knew what anyone else among the teachers and parents might think about parents carrying into the school, whether openly or concealed. In the actual event, it didn't seem to matter as, once again, I was functionally invisible. When there finally is a reaction at Montessori, I will argue that people should think of me as unpaid security. I'm just doing my bit to protect my kid and everyone else's kid as well.

One item of interest involves my wife. She is not participating directly in my open carry program -- she's just providing love and support. However, she recently accepted an invitation to attend a friend's wedding in Colorado, and wanted to be able to carry her gun while there. In researching the law, she found that individual counties seem to have wide discretion in determining whether or not they will issue a permit for concealed carry, though once issued in one county, a permit is good anywhere in the state. With persistence, it appeared that she might have been able to find a county that would recognize her Indiana personal protection license, but none that would issue a Colorado permit to a nonresident. Surprisingly, it turned out that - with the exception of Denver - one can carry openly in Colorado. Unfortunately, my wife doesn't have the right equipment for carrying openly, and she anticipated that it would, in any case, generate unpleasantness at the wedding ceremony. Not worth it, was her verdict.

On Monday, 12 February, the South Bend city council will be voting on an ordinance governing carry in municipal buildings. It appears that the ordinance will exempt people having an Indiana personal protection license, but the people on the scene have reported to me that the wording is rather confusing. The reason for this ordinance may have something to do with officials having prevented a gun show from being held in building owned by the city a few years ago. The city was subsequently sued and ended up having to pay several hundred thousand dollars to the organizer of the gun show. I'll have a full report on the ordinance within the next few days and will include it in my next installment.

I was also informed by one of the RKBA activists in South Bend that the local paper, the South Bend Tribune, carried the Associated Press report about my open carry activities. He said that a few people up there are carrying openly. I've tentatively planned to make their 21 February meeting.