Gun Laws: Who’s Afraid of Paul Helmke?

April 5, 2010

For release at noon Tuesday April 6 and thereafter (631 words)

“This latest tragedy, at a heavily fortified army base, ought to convince more Americans to reject the argument that the solution to gun violence is to arm more people with more guns in more places.” — Paul Helmke, former mayor of Fort Wayne now president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Maybe Steven Covey, the business guru, was talking about Indiana when he said, “The way we see the problem is the problem.”  The new “Guns at Work” law exemplifies such political myopia in extremis. 

Like most things we call law today, it contains lots of words — nearly as many as in the whole U.S. Constitution. But unlike our simple, easily-understood-if-you’d-just-read-it constitution, the bill invokes bizarre, anti-constitutional, self-contradicting abstractions through painful incantations:

Prohibits a person, including an individual, a corporation and a governmental entity, from adopting or enforcing a policy or rule that prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting an individual from legally possessing a firearm that is locked in the individual’s vehicle while the vehicle is in or on the person’s property, unless the firearm requires a certain federal license to possess.

Yet in signing this legalistic effluvium, Gov. Mitch Daniels said, “Considering the clear language of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the even stronger language of Article 1 Section Thirty-Two of the Indiana Constitution, protecting these rights as provided in HEA 1065 (“Guns at Work”) is appropriate.” 

The National Rifle Association claims that the new law will ” . . . prevent state or local government authorities from confiscating lawfully owned firearms during declared states of emergency, such as occurred in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.”

Really?  By what authority did government ever confiscate guns? Do new laws protect constitutions? From who? 

The anti-gun side is undeniably passionate and persistent in their regulation, litigation and rhetoric. Former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, now president of the Brady Campaign, once presented a seemingly reasonable challenge: “Ask why there is so much gun violence. Ask why laws to restrict access to guns are being weakened, not strengthened.” 

In reaction, the pro-gun advocates think they’re pragmatic and clever in “moving the ball forward” by “working within the system” that they apparently believe is controlled by people like Helmke. But what are gun rights, and who really opposes them? 

Article I, Section 32 of the Indiana Constitution says exactly and only this regarding weapons: “The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State.” 

That is the gun law that Governor Daniels has always been legally required to execute. 

Article I, Section 25 of the Indiana Constitution says: “No law shall be passed, the taking effect of which shall be made to depend upon any authority, except as provided in this Constitution.”

That means that laws such as the “Guns at Work” do not create authority. Laws depend upon constitutional authority. Read our state and federal constitutions and you’ll be surprised to learn that not even courts were given any power over constitutions. Both remain clear and un-amended regarding an individual’s right to arms. Citizens already have the legal right to carry a weapon as long as it doesn’t impinge upon another citizen’s rights.

No agent of government, no person — not Mitch Daniels and certainly not Paul Helmke —has any constitutional authority to take away, license or even register your weapons. Our federal and state constitutions have been amended many times but gun rights, as guaranteed in writing, haven’t changed.

So my dear gun-rights friends, you’ve long ago been given what you want. But instead of demanding what’s yours, you’re spitting on it. With half the effort you’ve put into counterproductive new laws, you could annul unconstitutional laws and actions.

Helmke, you see, is not the enemy; it’s our sophistry and games that bring death by a thousand cuts. The state and federal constitutions, to which politicians, soldiers, police and new citizens swear an oath to support and defend, are still and truly the Law of the Land. 

Andrew Horning, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, was the GOP candidate for the 7th Congressional seat and more recently the Libertarian candidate for governor.


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