INDIANAPOLIS (May 3, 2015) – Last Wednesday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a bill that “Repeals the prohibition against manufacturing, importing, selling, or possessing a sawed-off shotgun,” and represents the first step against federal prohibitions on the same.
Introduced by Sen. James Tomes (R-Wadesville), Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood) and Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) along with 26 cosponsors, Senate Bill 433 (SB433) eliminates the portions of the Indiana criminal code restricting sawed-off shotguns. With the new law, the state of Indiana has taken important steps forward against the prohibition on these weapons – and manufacturing and commerce on the same.
It passed in the state Senate by a 44-6 vote on Feb. 3, and passed in the state House by a 85-14 vote on March 24. It was signed into law by Gov. Pence on April 29.
The law defines sawed-off shotguns as “a shotgun having one (1) or more barrels less than eighteen (18) inches in length and… any weapon made from a shotgun (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if the weapon as modified has an overall length of less than twenty-six (26) inches.”
While some would claim that the federal government allows such firearms while Indiana did not, this is likely misunderstanding what is actually happening in practice.
“[A short barreled shotgun and rifle are considered] a title II firearm, which is highly regulated by the ATF. They are kept in a national registry. The transferring from one owner to another takes from six months to a year and there is a lot of paperwork and background checks by the ATF, FBI and sometimes Interpol. There is a $200 fee every time one changes possession,” Sen Tomes said.
In general, however, enforcement of federal restrictions or outright prohibition relies on participation between state and federal governments. With the new law, Indiana now authorizes what the federal government severely restricts, and this sets the stage for people to take things further.
The precedent has been set for nearly twenty years since California voters approved the compassionate use act in late 1995. By authorizing the people of that state to produce, transfer, possess, and consume something fully prohibited by the federal government, people were given the encouragement to act without further federal “permission.” Today, with nearly two dozen states allowing marijuana use and commerce in varying degrees, the federal government has been forced to back down since they lack the resources to overcome such overwhelming defiance.
While Indiana’s new law decriminalizing shotguns isn’t going to change the status quo on federal prohibition, it’s an important first step. Will gun rights activists be willing to buy, sell or manufacture without federal permission as other activists have done with a plant? Only time will tell.
Additional reporting by Shane Trejo