Lack of knowledge clouds gun issue
By Scott Mawhorter
Publication Date: 01/29/08
Eric Zaderej | Exponent Photographer
Nathen Kaney a freshman in engineerfing and Brad Detert a sophomore in aviation technology target practicing in the Armory at Rifle and Pistol Club.
According to one state detective, a lack of knowledge contributes to many of the problems encountered with gun laws in Indiana.
Last week, members of the West Lafayette Police Department found a loaded AK-47 rifle in the apartment of a sophomore in the School of Management. The student was arrested on drug-related charges, according to police. In Indiana, however, possession of a semi-automatic rifle is legal, even without a carry permit.
Detective Steve Buckley of the Indiana State Police Department said there are separate procedures for handguns and semi-automatic rifles. To obtain either of them, it is necessary to fill out a background check.
"They do a background check to make sure you're not a felon and are actually allowed to have one of these guns," Buckley said.
He said to have either in a residence does not require any special permission beyond a background check, but carrying a handgun requires a carry permit, which is controlled by the local police department.
Police Chief Jason Dombkowski is in charge of issuing carry permits in West Lafayette and makes decisions based on requests he receives.
"I get them and recommend if they receive a permit through the state, or write a letter saying why I think they should deny them," Dombkowski said. He said he does not have the final decision on who does not receive permits, but he can decide who does.
Due to the law requiring a carry permit to have a handgun on your person for any amount of time, however, it is technically illegal to take one home from a gun retailer before first acquiring a carry permit.
But no carry permit is required for a semi-automatic rifle. Buckley was not sure specifically why this is the case, but he was able to offer an opinion.
"My assumption is that you can carry a concealed handgun, but a concealed semi-automatic is a bit more difficult to hide."
Eric Freuchtel, a senior in the College of Technology, is a member of the Purdue Rifle and Pistol Club. He said even though Indiana's gun laws are relatively lax, it doesn't necessarily reflect on the amount of gun-related crimes committed.
"In Israel, everyone is required to be in the military for, I think, two years, and it's not uncommon for teenagers to carry rifles as they walk down the streets everyday; but they have one of the lowest crime rates in the world," Freuchtel said. He compared gun laws of New York and California to Indiana's. Even though those states have the strictest legislation in the country, their crime rates far exceed Indiana's.
Buckley said if people knew more about gun laws, the frequency of problem situations would go down.
"A lot of the problems we run into is due to a lack of knowledge."