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Trying to overrule federal gun control law likely would be unconstitutional

Updated: February 22, 2013 6:22AM



Well before President Barack Obama’s announcements on gun control, three bills in the Indiana Senate offer to lessen restrictions on gun owners. But as the nation brings up the national debate, it’s important to see whether the legislation has potential to become a law. Two of the bills have the potential to move through the Legislature, but one that would free the state of federal restrictions isn’t likely to move.

The bill, known as the Indiana Firearms Freedom Act and authored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, would exempt any firearm, accessory or ammunition manufactured in Indiana from federal law or regulation.

But trying to overrule federal law likely would be unconstitutional, said Senate President Pro Temp Dave Long, R-Fort Wayne. Long said adoption of the bill as written could set the state up for a lawsuit.

“That bill is probably unconstitutional,” Long said. “That’s how I’m looking at it, and our legal team told me that as well.”

One gun bill with a good chance of moving through the General Assembly would recognize licensed gun holders from other states in Indiana, and let Indiana licences be recognized in other states. Its author is Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield.

“There was a lot of confusion as to whether or not if you have a license in one state,” Long said, “you can carry in another. It gets us in sync with other states if you have a permit. That’s more or less to close an unintended loophole.”

The third bill addresses whether a license gun owner would be able to carry a gun onto state property, including state university campuses. That bill will be one to watch, since it’s more likely to receive debate compared to the other two.

A recent survey by Campus Safety magazine showed that about 25 percent of campus safety personnel who responded feel they are not prepared to respond to an active shooter.

Since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, there have been 10 shootings on college campuses. And just three weeks into the new year, there have been three shootings on or near a college campus, including an instance where two were killed and one was injured at a Kentucky community college. In another, a part-time student shot and wounded a school employee at a St. Louis institute before being wounded by St. Louis police. The third instance involved a police shoot-out east of San Diego State University.

Gun rights advocates contend shootings on college campuses could be stopped if gun owners were allowed to carry a weapon.

Skeptics raise concerns that allowing students, who face high stress and mood-altering influences like alcohol and drugs, to carry guns could be a deadly mix.

Even Long noted that the bill would need more discussion before the Republican caucus moves it forward.

“My concern with the universities and colleges,” he said “is whether students should be able to carry. I think that’s an environment that’s ripe with potential trouble.”

But there is potential that the bill could be changed to allow college employees, like professors and administrator, to carry a concealed weapon if they had gun licenses. Until that discussion is held, the bill will stay on hold.

Bosma not big on tax break

Republicans leaders might not see eye to eye with Gov. Mike Pence’s plan with the proposed tax cut. Speaker Brian Bosma said Thursday the House budget will likely offer more school funding than two 1 percent increases each year.

And using the $350 million in potential surplus for transportation funds leaves too much of the state’s infrastructure up to the economy.

State law caps reserves at one-eighth of spending, then splits the remaining amount between state pension funds and the taxpayers. Pence’s budget plan would change the law, and divert the pension funds into transportation funds.

Bosma said too much of the governor’s budget plan would leave the transportation budget up to the economy.

“If the economy tanks, there’s no transportation dollars,” he said. “Those are economic development and infrastructure investment dollars. You can’t sell yourself as the Crossroads of America without adequate roads.”

Pence’s education plan, which would increase K-12 funding by 1 percent the first year, then use another percent as incentives for higher performing schools, might not be the best approach, although he supports offering incentives when they work in the budget.

“There’s some irony in saying, your school is struggling, and we’re going to hand money to those who are doing a great job.” Bosma said. “I’m on board with having performance rewards where we can make them work. Placing all that funding in year two gives me a little pause.”

Bosma said that the House budget would also like to see more money go toward education how much is up in the air.

“It may be difficult to invest in all the critical needs we have,” Bosma said, “and still accept the tax cut proposal. That doesn’t mean it’s off the table, but we accept his recommendation.”

Bosma and Pence also differ slightly on how to use the reserve. Pence is on record with not spending more than it takes in, but Bosma said it should be spent on necessary one-time expenditures.



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