Last night, Governor Holcomb signed into law House Bill 1296, which eliminates the need for citizens of Indiana to obtain a license in order to carry a handgun. Last week, Bishop Jennifer and Bishop Doug Sparks of Northern Indiana sent a letter to Governor Holcomb asking him to veto the measure.
Dear Governor Holcomb:
House Bill 1296, which would eliminate the need for citizens of our state to obtain a license in order to carry a handgun, has made its way to your desk. This is an ill-considered piece of legislation that will make our state a more dangerous place to live, and we urge you to veto it.
Evidence from across our country confirms that states with stricter gun laws experience fewer gun deaths. Yet this legislation would mean that it would be even more difficult to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, even as gun violence in our state is on the rise. This is, no doubt, why it is opposed by the Indiana State Police and law enforcement officials across the state.
Indiana’s rate of gun deaths increased 30 percent from 2010 to 2019, compared to a 17 percent increase nationwide, according to data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of gun suicides increased 19 percent during that same period, compared to a 13 percent increase nationwide, and the rate of gun homicides increased by an alarming 57 percent compared to a 26 percent increase nationwide. During the COVID-19 pandemic, gun violence continued surging: 2021 was Indianapolis’s deadliest year yet.
This escalating violence takes a particular toll on our most vulnerable communities. Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children and teens in our state. It wreaks vastly disproportionate devastation on communities of color, and during the pandemic, it posed a singular danger to domestic violence victims who were not able to flee their gun-owning abusers, and to people struggling with mental health issues.
We Hoosiers are hardy people, and we do not expect our elected officials to solve all of our problems for us. But we should be able to rely on the state legislature not to make our state more violent and not to place its people at greater risk.
We are participants in Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of more than 100 Episcopal bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. We acknowledge the importance of Second Amendment rights, but we object when those rights are understood so broadly that vulnerable people are put at risk. The current handgun licensing law does not present an undue burden on gun ownership, and our state will be safer if we keep it on the books.
We strongly urge you to oppose this legislation.
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows The Rt. Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Sparks
Bishop of Indianapolis Bishop of Northern Indiana