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John Krull commentary: Of the special interests, by the special interests, for the special interests

In the waning hours of the 2022 session of the Indiana General Assembly, Hoosier lawmakers delivered a lesson on who and what matters.

What the people of this state want doesn’t matter.

Neither does public safety.

But the rights of narrow special-interest groups?

Oh, oh, oh, those are paramount.

When it comes to satisfying the wishes and wants of, say, the gun lobby, heaven, earth and everything in between must be moved to keep the firearms fetishists and merchants happy.

That’s the message delivered by ramming through in the legislative session’s last hours a measure to allow Hoosier gun owners to carry their weapons without a permit. The so-called constitutional-carry bill seemed to have died earlier in the session.

And for good reason.

Public opposition to the bill, in its original form, had been intense.

Many Hoosiers showed up at the Statehouse to testify against it. Polling—even in the districts of the legislators who authored and pushed the bill the hardest—ran heavily against the measure with almost two-thirds or even more of those surveyed saying it was a bad idea.

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter opposed the bill. The State Police in fact said that such a measure would make policing more dangerous and difficult.

That tracks with what police officers and prosecutors have been telling the state’s lawmakers for years now. The people charged with keeping the peace and providing for public safety have testified again and again that loosening Indiana’s already lax gun laws will only make their jobs harder and increase the chances that cops will be killed.

But, hey, what’s a few dead police officers so long as the gun dealers are happy?

That seems to be the attitude of an overwhelming majority of Indiana’s lawmakers.

They feel they don’t have to listen to their own constituents. They don’t have to pay attention to people who have lost family members and other loved ones to gun violence. They can say “talk to the hand” to Indiana’s law-enforcement officials.

But gun lobbyists?

Those guys get the legislators’ undivided attention.

The question is why.

Why do so many of our lawmakers care so much about the whims of a narrow special interest?

And so little about the needs and concerns of the public the legislators are supposed to serve?

The short answer is that they don’t care about what the public wants or because they don’t have to.

Indiana is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. The mapmaking aimed at creating safe seats for incumbents—in this state, Republican incumbents—has been so effective and successful that the number of truly competitive legislative districts in Indiana can be counted on one hand.

One of the many, many problems gerrymandering produces is that it creates fertile ground for special interests such as the gun lobby to flourish.

Lawmakers who never have to worry about losing their offices—or who only have to fear losing in a primary to challengers who are even more extreme than they are—don’t feel they have to pay attention to what their constituents want. In fact, they often feel they don’t even have to show minimal regard for the views of people who might disagree with them or just question their actions.

Even if those people are the constituents they’re supposed to represent.

The lobbyists who can help those lawmakers fend off primary challenges and buy them nice dinners in the process are a different story altogether. This is particularly true if these legislators were among the extreme candidates the special interest recruited and worked to cultivate from the beginning.

In theory, ours is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

But, as the full-court press to push the permitless gun measure through demonstrates, here in Indiana that’s not really the case.

No, not at all.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.