NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Legislative error should not nullify gun law

Firearms deer season has begun, and hunters should be allowed to use rifles to hunt on public property.

But an animal welfare group wants a judge to nullify an emergency rule recently approved by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to allow rifle-hunting on state or federal property. We think the judge should let the rule stand.

The emergency rule was instituted on Nov. 3. The DNR was responding to earlier legislation that a state lawmaker says inadvertently prohibited hunters from using any kind of rifle to hunt deer on public land. The state rule will allow rifles during the firearms deer-hunting season that began Saturday. It will expire on Feb. 1.

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, authored House Bill 1415, which he says was meant to clarify rules regarding the use of high-velocity ammunition on private property. He told the Indianapolis Star an error in the bill means hunters will only be able to use rifles to hunt deer on private grounds. No one caught the inadvertent change when the bill first passed, Eberhart said.

He said he hopes to fix the law when the legislature reconvenes in January.

The emergency rule signed Nov. 3 by the DNR, filed with the Natural Resources Commission and the Legislative Services Agency, states:

“Rifle cartridges that were allowed in previous years on public land for deer hunting are allowed on public land again this year during the deer firearms season, the reduction zone season (in zones where local ordinances allow the use of a firearm), special hunts on other public lands such as state parks and national wildlife refuges, and special antlerless season.”

But the Indianapolis Star reported last week that the Center for Wildlife Ethics filed a request to scuttle the rule with LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos on Thursday.

The CWE website says it is a public interest organization that protects wild animals from exploitative agendas by instilling an ethical voice in wildlife public policy, challenging state-sanctioned violence and monitoring governmental bodies for compliance and consistency with their own wildlife-related laws and policies.

“I’m concerned that the DNR can subvert the legislature,” said Laura Nirenberg, an attorney for CWE. “They are exceeding their statutory authority.”

A DNR spokesman said the agency believes it took appropriate action and stands by its decision. And we concur.