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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Self-defense law could pose problem to law enforcement

Posted Monday, April 2, 2012, at 2:48 PM

The 2012 Indiana legislative session will long be debated for what it did and not accomplish.

The legislators introduced 752 bills -- both the House and Senate approved 175 of the introduced bills

Gov. Mitch Daniels signed 161 bills into law with 37 percent of new laws received unanimous support in both chambers and 99 percent of new laws received bipartisan support.

Certainly there were some good laws passed - much needed funding for full-day kindergarten to ease the financial pain in our cash-strapped local school districts to provide an important early start to education; a state-wide smoking ban in public places; and the controversial and much debated right-to-work law, which supporters say will give Indiana an edge in its pursuit for new jobs that will aid our local governments in providing an economic boost for firms looking for a place to locate.

In addition, the General Assembly strengthened Indiana's ban on synthetic drugs. Signing HB 1196 into law added more chemical compounds found in Spice, K2 and bath salts to the state's list of illegal substances.

That's a good law and locally here in Greene County we've seen the adverse effects of bath salts in a couple of criminal cases.

The state also has its own official state rifle - thanks to legislation introduced by our local state senator, John Waterman (R-Shelburn) of District 39.

The Grouseland Rifle is the state's official rifle. It is one of only six remaining long rifles made by famed Hoosier gunsmith John Small in the early 1800s.

Waterman decided to pursue honoring the Grouseland Rifle, which is in President William Henry Harrison's Vincennes home, Grouseland, after hearing a few years ago that Pennsylvania was considering naming the long rifle its official gun.

Instead of filing a bill, Waterman got an amendment added to House Bill 1283, which mostly deals with libraries.

Because the rifle issue was added by an amendment, there was no opportunity for proponents of other guns to make the case that their weapon should be Indiana's official rifle, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Small, a Revolutionary War veteran who moved to Vincennes in 1785, was a man of many talents who was a tavern-keeper, ferry operator, gunsmith, woodworker, silversmith, Northwest Territory legislator, Indiana's first sheriff, Knox County surveyor and adjutant general of the territorial militia under Harrison, according to Waterman.

Leading the way of the not-so-good laws passed during the recent session in my view is the so-called "right to resist" legislation that became law.

The law is a measure that allows homeowners to use force when resisting police entry into their homes in some cases.

The bill was a response to uproar over a state Supreme Court ruling that said residents could not resist officers, even during an illegal entry.

The law says that residents are protected by the state's self-defense law if they reasonably believe force is necessary to protect themselves from unlawful actions by an officer.

Supporters said the proposal strengthens the rights of homeowners while also making clear that anyone who is committing a crime isn't justified in using force against an officer, while opponents argued that the General Assembly shouldn't give people justification for attacking officers.

I have to side with law enforcement and the opponents on this one. I can see this as a bad law that potentially could endanger the lives of our public servants, who are faced with daily danger and uncertainty every day they report for their work shifts in the very violent society that we live.

I view the county court records on a daily basis and see that search warrants are issued on a regular basis. This law potentially puts the officers serving those warrants in direct danger - especially when you consider that a high percentage of Greene County residents are packing guns legally and many others are carrying weapons illegally.

We ought to be strengthening the protection that our law enforcement agencies have instead of eroding the rights in favor of those who break the law.

Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be contacted by telephone at 847-4487 or by email at schneider.nick@gmail.com .

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