Commentary: Make lawmakers wear their labels

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – Long ago, the late Indianapolis News political pundit Ed Ziegner used to roast legislators at the end of each session of the Indiana General Assembly.

One year, he absolutely scorched the lawmakers.

John Krull, publisher,

He said that they should list their sponsors or the special interests who claimed their true allegiance on their shirts, like Little League baseball teams. But a shirt wouldn’t be enough for every legislator, Ziegner said.

Some had sold themselves so often that they’d need capes to list every group that had bought them or otherwise owned them.

I thought of Ziegner’s jibe the other day when I attended a press conference at the Statehouse. Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and two parents whose lives and children had been touched by gun violence wanted to retrieve two common-sense firearm-safety bills from the legislative scrap heap.

They said, over and over again, they just wanted a chance to make their case. They wanted a hearing and a vote, they said, and would accept the outcome, win or lose.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, trolled at the edge of the press conference. Lucas loves to identify himself as the chief cheerleader and camp follower for the National Rifle Association. Until he developed a recent infatuation with medical marijuana laws, almost every bill Lucas introduced involved loosening Indiana’s already lax gun laws.

He, of course, is supposed to represent the interests of his community.

But, judging by Lucas’s priorities, the biggest problems the good people of Seymour face are that they can’t get enough guns or pot.

Lucas waited a nanosecond at most after the press conference’s conclusion to find a TV camera into which he could bloviate his strange interpretation of the Second Amendment. In his version of that amendment, the 13 words of the militia purpose clause – the part that allows for reasonable regulation of guns – do not exist.

He neatly overlooked the fact that the parents at the press conference also were exercising a constitutional right – the First Amendment one guaranteeing that they can petition government for redress of grievances.

Some day, Lucas will have to read the other 7,577 words in the Constitution – or at least get someone to read them to him.

Not that it would matter much. Because Lucas is so wedded to his special-interest love, he doesn’t much care about the feelings – much less the constitutional rights – of people who don’t agree with him.

That’s why he takes pride in bullying citizens who come to testify in favor of sensible gun laws. It’s also why he likes to boast there is no gun-control law – no matter how sensible – that he and his fellow gun-lobby compliant legislators ever will consider.

That’s also why, no matter how many Hoosiers die in gun-related violence, legislative session after legislative session will come and go without our lawmakers doing anything about the problem.

Nor are guns the only example.

For years, public health advocates have recommended an increase in the cigarette tax. A hike of $2 would produce $360 million in annual revenue for the state, until it started to do its real work. That real work involves discouraging Hoosiers from smoking.

This would reduce health-care costs dramatically.

This should be a no-brainer – a plan that brings money in on the front end, saves it on the back end and make people healthier in between.

But this bill, too, languishes, waiting for a hearing that won’t come.

The same goes for proposals regarding hate-crimes legislation, redistricting reform and any number of other basic and often popular measures.

The common denominator is they die without getting a committee hearing or vote. A committee chairperson or other powerful legislator – one generally from a gerrymandered district – bottles up the bill and avoids the inconvenience of having legislators vote on a measure people favor but an entrenched special interest doesn’t.

Confusing, isn’t it?

Ziegner’s suggestion offered in jest, though, would clear up a lot of that confusion.

If we made legislators who carry water for the gun lobby wear NRA shirts around the Statehouse or the lawmakers who want to make it easy for cigarette manufacturers to market smokes to kids sport Big Tobacco jerseys, we could eliminate a lot of the mystery.

It would make the action easier to follow.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.



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12 Responses to Commentary: Make lawmakers wear their labels

  1. Stephanie Lambert

    This article is insightful, intelligent and spot on. Kudos to you.

  2. Krull does not comprehend libety, responsibility, or Lucas.

  3. Wow.
    So far off base it isn’t even funny.
    The writers interpretation of the 2nd amendment is so mind bogglingly incorrect it’s to the point that it must be willfull.
    Nothing in the 2nd amendment allows for regulation, even “common sense” regulation. Unless of course one refuses to understand the verbiage of the day, and how it regards a military body like a militia.
    Really, its just sad.

  4. Why are you such a coward? Jim has repeatedly asked you to debate hin on guns on any forum yet you never reply. You like to hide behind the first while forgetting that the 2nd protects it. Also you prove your ignorance by putting “well regulated” into todays terms rather than the time they were written. You sir are nothing but a typical bought and paid for “journalist” hack. Real journalists report only on facts for and against what they believe, you are NOT a journalist.

  5. “Well-Regulated” is an 18th Century military term. It means “well-drilled” or “well-trained”.

  6. “Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry.”

  7. The 2nd Amendment says “right of the people”… not right of the militia. Yes, a well regulated militia is necessary to ensure our state remains free, but WE the people have the right to keep and bare arms.

    One merely needs to look at Indiana’s own Constitution:

    The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State. Art. I, § 32 (enacted 1851, art. I, § 32).

    Krull, we shouldn’t need a lobby, PAC or anything else for a RIGHT that is the ONLY one guaranteed to NOT BE INFRINGED.

    How about you do some journalism, and explain why the two DEADLIEST districts in this state are run by… democrats. Oh.. because then you’d realize this is true for virtually every state in this Republic.

  8. As a citizen of Seymour, Jim is my representative. I would suspect that we have about the same issues that need addressed in Seymour that most other small cities in the state of Indiana have, and no more access to pot or guns are not among the top of the list. However, what’s wrong with abiding by the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution? What’s wrong with abiding by the Indiana Constitution? You exercise your Bill or Rights right in writing this editorial, and I would guess you expect to do so unencumbered by government intervention, much less having to pay a fee to the state in order to exercise that right? Is this editorial allowed in schools? Is it allowed in churches that may be on the same property of a school? What about the statehouse, is the mindless drivel in favor of “sensible” gun laws allowed there? Criminals by the very definition break laws, it seems pretty sensible to me that more laws are not going to stop them.
    As to the “more pot” nonsense, while I wasn’t always in favor of cannabis use, after educating myself a little on the matter, there seems to be some medical evidence that it’s a viable alternative to opioids. Which is a HUGE concern for Seymour. Crime, stress on local infrastructure, deaths, etc., I think you could agree are issues throughout the state. What we’ve been doing obviously has failed miserable. Why are you so intent on continuing to do the same thing? That’s pretty much the definition of crazy isn’t it?
    I would suggest you run for office, get elected, get in there and get your hands dirty making this Utopian society you seem to think Jim is standing in the way of? I’ve voted for Jim in every election I was able, I think he does a great job, as apparently a large majority of his constituents. I have no idea who your representative or senator is, I suggest you worry about them, and leave us in District 69 to worry about our representation.

  9. John Krull, I find your writing lacking any true merit and almost comical. If you truely knew the suffering of true heroes and the strides made by Rep. Lucas to actually bring relief to people who truely need it! Your liberal outlook makes you look foolish in you niave conclusions and narratives. This actually borders on irresponsible journalism and you should be ashamed. Of course you only work for a news paper and you job is very limited. There is a reason people find the real stories through sources other than biased media. Do some research before you publish. I did a master thesis on smoking and taxation as a deterrent. You sir truely have no idea!! I will not even touch the 2nd amendment, you apparently do not respect. So my suggestion is since you are so irresponsible with this article and some of the others j have read too, I propose we vote in the same rules and restrictions the 2nd amendment has. Because you know words can hurt too and you sir are not being responsible with your use o them! You are an embarrassment to your profession.

  10. I don’t understand your need for more gun laws. The people commenting the volient crimes with guns don’t care about the gun laws or they would not commit crimes. There are so many gun laws now that are not even being enforced.

  11. You missed the lobby group for the Investor-Owned Utilities. Anyone voting for HB1468 or HB1470 earns a shirt with their label.

  12. Wow, the liberal talking points just spew out of Krull like lies out of Bathhouse Barry’s mouth! He attacks anyone who doesn’t march lock-step (goose step?) to his liberal fasist beliefs.
    How DARE anyone want to actually FOLLOW the Constitution!!

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