Last Thursday I hitched a ride in a van with five Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America members to Indianapolis to attend an Indiana combined Senate-House hearing on House Bill 105. 105 would eliminate the Indiana requirement for a gun permit. I am not kidding. I had requested to be permitted to speak. Well, I sat through fifteen other speakers, the Chair, Senator Bray, said one more speaker would be the last and called someone other than me. Then he said he’d added one more and called a gentleman who spent ten minutes complaining that he, a convicted felon, was not permitted to own a gun – which was not the topic of the bill. Then the Chair adjourned the hearing. I immediately confronted Senator Bray and offered the one page (I had been advised to have ready if not allowed to speak) statement pasted below. He mumbled some excuse and took the statement, promising to give it to the committee members. Nice, but lacks the give-and-take of the hearing environment. One earlier speaker took 7 minutes followed by 35 minutes of Q & A. How I would have enjoyed that! Example: the author of the bill bragged about entering the Marine Corps 35 years ago. I did over 52 years and three wars ago. OK, I know, bitching again. ‘Can’t help it. These NRA bought-and-paid-for Indiana legislators apparently had their minds made up. Multiple Indiana law enforcement agencies had testified in opposition to Bill 105 during the first committee hearing, the week before my attempt.
“He drew first!”
Colonel John W. Tilford statement regarding Indiana House Bill 105
I have thirty-eight years of military service, including active and reserve, extending from two tours in Vietnam with the Marine Corps as a Corporal to three “call ups” after 9/11 with the Army Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel. I have the Expert Infantryman Badge, Airborne Badge and was awarded the Legion of Merit after retirement as Deputy Commander, National Ground Intelligence Center.
I love guns and have fired every weapon from an M-1 at Camp Pendleton to an M-14 in Vietnam to M-16A1 in the Reserves. I only fired two military handguns, the classic M1911A1 and the M9. I was never issued but fired the BAR, M3 (“grease gun”), and M2 flamethrower – but I digress. I doubt House Bill 105 pertains to flamethrowers. I certainly hope not.
I do not love people being needlessly killed and maimed by guns. I have seen bodies and; in the 95th Evacuation Hospital of Danang, later in Walter Reed, later still in VA hospitals and at the national memorials for Vietnam, Korea, and WWII; I have seen and talked with soldiers and Marines who would never be the same. I twice heard the crack of a rifle bullet missing my head by inches but was never hit. I was lucky. Many were not.
My first supervisor as an IRS Revenue Officer was Jim Christopher, Korean War veteran. I once overheard his response to the question, “What did it feel like to get shot?” “Well, about like getting hit with a red-hot sledgehammer.” Jim was hit in his right hip. A buddy drug him to the center of their perimeter at the top of a hill being assaulted by the Chinese. As he lay there on his back with his head toward the attack, in and out of consciousness due to loss of blood, Jim wondered how to aim his .45 upside down. The cold saved him, freezing his blood around the wound.
Allow me to include but one example of why hand guns should be legally denied to unstable persons. I took my first command, the 3421st Military Intelligence Detachment, on their mobilization to the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) in December 2002. The Charlottesville (Does that city’s name ring a bell?) newspaper carried a short item the next day: “One man shot and another arrested.” Two men each claimed they were first at a gasoline pump at a station two blocks from where my unit was housed. Both had handguns. “He drew first!” was the defense of the man arrested for attempted manslaughter. What could have been a minor scuffle escalated into a life or death hazard to the participants and bystanders due to the presence of firearms drawn in the heat of the moment. The members of my unit who later served in Afghanistan and Iraq could have been killed at a gas station in Charlottesville the day they arrived.
I am forced to conclude that House Bill 105 was submitted without sufficient respect for the lethality of the weapons now minimally regulated by the state of Indiana. Any intended purpose, which I cannot discern, for this bill is insufficient. Any life lost due to the elimination of gun permits is one too many.
Counter-proliferation: the Defense Intelligence Agency, NGIC, NSA, NGA and other intelligence community member agencies spend billions of dollars and risk scores of lives annually to reduce the spread of weapons of mass destruction such as biological and chemical weapons. Risk lives to save lives. Jim Christopher. Mel Biddle, Medal of Honor recipient and my former supervisor at the Indianapolis VA Regional Office. All United States military members served or are serving to save lives. So that we could increase the risk of random death by eliminating the few restrictions Indiana has on who may carry a gun? Please no. Protect Hoosiers.