Indiana domestic violence survivor gun law goes into effect

Kerry Bennett, legal counsel for the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has always been against House Bill 1071. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Friday rounded out the first full week for several new Indiana laws, including one that puts a firearm in the hands of a survivor of domestic violence, given that he or she has also has a restraining order on file for the alleged abuser.

Earlier this year House Bill 1071 was a hotly contested debate but now that the bill has passed into law, people are discussing what to do to protect some of Indiana’s most vulnerable men and women.

Kerry Bennett, legal counsel for the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has always been against House Bill 1071. In her capacity as legal advocate for survivors of domestic violence, she’s heard all the stories, including one where a woman tried to arm herself against her abuser and was violently threatened by him with her own weapon.

“It was pointed at her and he said, ‘I’m going to blow your brains out with the gun that you brought to the table,'” Bennett recalled. “Statistics say that if you introduce a firearm into a potentially volatile situation, the survivor is much more likely to get hurt by that firearm.”

She said her organization, along with dozens of others including law enforcement, argued against the bill but with a final pass from the Senate in April and Gov. Eroc Holcomb’s signature, the bill became a law July 1.

It states that survivors of domestic violence can carry a handgun without a license for 60 days, given they have been granted a protective order. The law also expedites police processing of their license application.

Proponents say the law empowers victims to quickly protect themselves or their children without having to wait months for a permit to arrive. Bennett herself admits she’s seen situations where armed victims have successfully defended themselves, but she said she wishes she saw much more of something else.

“There is no mandatory firearm training in this state,” Bennett said. “So just because you have a firearm doesn’t mean you know what to do with it.”

While the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its subsidiaries will stop short of providing firearm training to domestic violence survivors, Bennett said this week she’s providing training to her staff, encouraging them to tell their clients take a gun safety class if they choose to take advantage of the new law.

That’s a change one local firearm trainer has already begun to see. Michael Hilton, owner of Indy Gun Bunker, said lately he’s seen a lot of female customers.

“They don’t feel safe,” he said. “So this is one option they use to even the odds so to speak.”

Hilton said he approves of the new law as a form of protection for victims. He offers gun safety courses to those who feel prepared to own a firearm but also alternatives to those who are untrained.

“I’ve had individuals come in here in this exact situation, and actually I’ll spend more time with them. There’s stun guns, there’s tasers, there’s Mace, there’s things like that you can use without going with a firearm itself,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kerry Bennett said she’ll continue to watch the statistics and build her case to try to repeal or improve the law.

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