• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Gun nuts

I've posted before that I've been all over the map on the death penalty. When I was in college, I was firmly against it, which is one reason I voted for Otis "Doc" Bowen for governor in the first election I was eligible to vote in here (and the second one ever -- I cast my first vote as a soldier in Texas). He opposed capital punishment because all of his training as a physician was aimed at saving lives. He had even voted in the General Assembly in 1965 to abolish the death penalty.

But soon after he took office, he announced he had changed his mind, and even became one of the death penalty's strongest supporters among governors. Later he said it was because of violent crimes like those committed by the Manson family, but I seem to remember there being a lot of commotion about the slaying of a state trooper and him saying at the time that that factored into his change of heart. That was the first time I felt betrayed by politics. He gets my vote because of a position he's held all his life and he could change his mind just like that?

That story probably isn't all that germane to the decision now faced by Gov. Mitch Daniels on the take-your-guns-to-work bill, but I remembered it because the governor is being asked to make a decision based on one incident. It was just last Thursday that the General Assembly sent the governor the bill that would let employees keep guns out of sight in their locked vehicles at work. The next day, a Portage man who was angry about a poor performance review went to his car, grabbed a shotgun and began shooting at his co-workers. His gun apparently malfunctioned, and police took him into custody before anyone was hurt. Still, some legislators and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce say, the incident shows that the law is a bad idea:

"This is further evidence that guns and the workplace simply don't mix," said Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber of Commerce president. "The last thing our state should do is validate the opportunity for a disgruntled employee to get a gun from his or her vehicle and threaten the lives of innocent co-workers and bystanders."

The argument is that if the employee had been forced to go all the way home to get his gun, that would have caused him to cool down enough to not want to use his gun. I'm not so sure about that -- read this profile of the guy; someone who says, after he's in custody, that "I'm glad this happened" and "Ill just go to Michigan City for the rest of my life" is not in a cooling-down mood. It's also worth remembering that the law isn't in effect yet, and the guy had his gun at work anyway.

What has always been true will still be true whether the governor signs the bill or not -- laws meant to protect our rights give us the freedom to act, a freedom which a few will abuse, which some will argue can only be fixed by diluting the rights. The self-defense and private-property arguments don't change just because of this one case. Though I have at times been as staunch a capital punishment supporter of as Doc. Bowen, I can still think he erred if he let one incident change his mind. I can even admit that I was wrong to change my whole opinion of him because of one issue.

From what I know of Daniels, I don't think he'll put too much weight on one incident. If he vetoes the bill, it will be because he's convinced by the Chamber's case that personal property rights should take precedence over Second Amendment arguments. It will be fascinating to see where he comes down in the issue.