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Victims of Domestic Abuse Should have the Capacity to Defend Themselves - Anywhere

H.B. 1071 would authorize some victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking who obtain an Order of Protection to carry a handgun without a license for a limited time.

On Tuesday, the Public Policy Committee of the Indiana House of Representatives held a hearing on H.B. 1071, authored by Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville).  This bill creates an exception to the general requirement to have a License to Carry Handgun in order to lawfully carry a handgun in public or in a vehicle.   If passed, H.B. 1071 would allow a person who obtains an Order of Protection as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to carry a handgun without a license for a period of sixty days from the date the order is issued or for sixty days from the date the person applies to the Indiana State Police for a License to Carry Handgun, whichever is longer.

The exception created by H.B. 1071 has significant limitations.  A person must be twenty-one years of age (a person is eligible to obtain a License to Carry Handgun at eighteen) and the person must be able to lawfully possess a firearm under both Indiana and federal law.  

Opponents of the bill who testified at Tuesday's hearing seemed generally confused about what it actually does -- and doesn't do.  Many of the opponents, including a representative of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, cited statistics that indicate a woman is more likely to be murdered by an abuser when there is a gun in the home. Others argued that a woman who is emotionally distraught as the result of domestic violence should not be allowed to "get a gun."  Even media outlets reported that H.B. 1071 would allow domestic abuse victims to "arm themselves."

Importantly, H.B. 1071 would have absolutely no effect on anyone's right to have a gun in their home or their ability to lawfully "get a gun."  No license or permit is necessary to purchase a firearm in Indiana; only a background check is required to purchase a firearm from a dealer.  A person also does not need a license to have a firearm on one's own property, including a handgun.  A rifle or shotgun can be possessed away from one's home or in a vehicle and no license is required.  Indiana only requires a License to Carry Handgun if a person wishes to carry a handgun on her person or to have a handgun accessible in a vehicle.  Thus, the exception created by H.B. 1071 is actually quite narrow and is only available to a person who may lawfully possess a firearm anyway (e.g., a person who is elible to receive a License to Carry Handgun if she applies).

Studies show that "defensive gun uses" (in which a gun is used to prevent a crime) occur as many as 2.5 million times (or more) per year, often without the gun even being fired.  While the legitimacy of these estimates is hotly debated, it is unquestionable that the apparent capacity to defend oneself with a gun is a substantial deterrent to would-be attackers.  And if the need arises, a firearm levels the playing field between a larger, stronger attacker and his intended victim. 

The logic behind H.B. 1071 is inescapable.  A victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking who successfully obtains an Order of Protection -- and who is legally eligible to receive a License to Carry Handgun -- should be allowed the lawful capacity to defend herself while she is at greatest risk and while she goes through the process of obtaining a license.  The State certainly has no legitimate interest in prosecuting a victim of domestic abuse for a crime (Carrying a Handgun without a License), which would only serve to victimize her yet again.

 

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Alextype


Guy A. Relford

Guy A. Relford is a Second Amendment attorney in Carmel, Indiana.  He is also the owner and chief instructor of Tactical Firearms Training, LLC in Indianapolis and the author of “Gun Safety & Cleaning for Dummies” (Wiley & Sons Publications, 2012).  He hosts “The Gun Guy with Guy Relford” on WIBC radio in Indianapolis.

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