Moving Toward the Second Amendment in Indiana

By State Senator and GOA member Jim Tomes

Pertinacious, holding firmly to some purpose, belief, or action, often stubbornly or obstinately, hard to get rid of; unyielding; persistent. That’s a good word. It might describe events that took place in my first session as a freshman Indiana state senator.

I had hoped to just observe the process in my first term, but was encouraged to introduce some bills. So I did. Indiana is a very gun-friendly state, but there can always be improvement. I introduced two bills. The first one was SB 292 — a preemption measure which not only would prohibit local units of government from enacting any gun laws that are in conflict with state law, but would remove all those that already exist.

The effect of SB 292 was to eliminate a hodgepodge of gun control ordinances in cities and counties across Indiana. South Bend’s ordinance resembled the Clinton gun ban on steroids. Marion County (Indianapolis) banned concealed carry and the display of a gun in a window. Some cities had a ban on guns in parks — even in cemeteries! Other jurisdictions claimed the power to ban guns during emergencies.

The wide reach of SB 292 explains why there was such intense opposition from local officials, the Association of Cities and Towns, Jim Ersay (Indianapolis Colts owner), libraries and hospitals.

The other bill I introduced was SB 506, which allows citizens (who do not have a handgun carry license) to transport a handgun in their vehicle to designated places. Though SB 292 was filed first, SB 506 was the first to get passed. It was a significant piece of legislation and probably would have received more resistance had it not been for the controversy over SB 292.

There were a lot of hurdles to jump over, but I eventually shepherded SB 292 through the Senate, where it passed 43 to 7. The bill then headed over to the House.

A state representative sponsored the bill in that chamber, where it was heavily amended. By this time, SB 292 had received a lot of media attention as well as opposition from the groups who did not want this bill to pass. I even got called by liberal talk show host Alan Colmes from New York and interviewed by the New York Times. This bill became very controversial.

Somewhat surprisingly, I benefited from a statewide email campaign conducted by a teacher’s organization in my area. They urged support for SB 292 in its original form.

When the bill came back to me from the House with several amendments, I strongly objected because there was no way I could impose all those new restrictions on the citizens.

The bill then was assigned to a conference committee where it was open for public testimony. Afterwards the changes were worked out. The bill was put into its original form with one exception: hospitals would be allowed to post a no-guns policy. Then the bill was sent to a rules committee on the final day of the session with just hours before adjournment. Once again I had to bring SB 292 before the Senate one last time and explain both the bill and the changes that had been made to it. The legislation was open for debate, and those in the Senate who opposed it had one last chance to kill the bill. But after another roll call vote was taken, it passed 40 to 10.

The bill then headed back to the House for a final vote as the clock was running out. SB 292 passed the House 70 to 24. The Governor has now signed both bills into law.

The lesson in all this is that gun owners must be persistent and never submit to those negative comments that “nothing can be done” or “it will never happen.” I even encountered such negative thinking in the firearms industry.

I never once was willing to back down on what I knew was the right thing to do. I am also the Director of the 2nd Amendment Patriots that was formed in January 1999. Before getting elected in 2010 to the Senate, I had lobbied frequently for pro-Second Amendment legislation. It has been quite a ride.