Arms Reach

Handgun hassles, grade-school numbers, and the dangers of spelunking. Ask the Hoosierist.

Q: I read that my license to carry a handgun is no good in Ohio. What gives?
Hank M., Carmel

A: Indiana hands out handgun permits faster than Long’s churns out donuts. As of early this year, the Indiana State Police had issued 420,711. That’s enough to put pistols in the holsters of roughly 6.5 percent of state residents. Just don’t try packing that iron in the Buckeye State, where an Indiana license gets less respect than a BB gun at the OK Corral.

Blame it on a little thing called “reciprocity agreements,” in which states pick which out-of-state permits they’ll honor and which they won’t. The Ohio Attorney General makes the call in that state, and it usually comes down to whether the state in question sets roughly comparable licensing standards. Which we, to put it mildly, do not. Ohio requires 10 hours of firearms training, including two hours of range and live fire time. Whereas here, according to one anonymous and unusually forthcoming Indiana State Police employee, all you need for a lifetime permit is “money and a background check.”

In other words, if you’re not a felon, are 18 or older, and have a few stray twenties to cover the $30 to $50 in local fees and the $75 state fee, you’re in. Not surprisingly, given our limbo-low standards, Indiana recognizes permits from every other state in the Union. Also not a shock: An Indiana permit isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on in Ohio—or in Illinois, Minnesota, California, and Nevada, among a great many other places. Keep that in mind if you plan to take your shootin’ iron on vacation. Go to the wrong state, and that three-day weekend might turn into an extended stay.


Q: Indy’s grade-school numbering system intrigues me. I went to School 34 on the south side. But my mom went to School 72, which wasn’t that far away and seemed to be built in the same era. Any rhyme or reason to the numbers? 
Don S., Homewood, Illinois

A:The Hoosierist would love to offer some interesting, quirky explanation for this digital oddity. Unfortunately, the answer is rather (actually very) mundane. The buildings are numbered in the order of their construction. If the scheme sounds a bit too Orwellian, fear not. All IPS schools, in addition to their digits, have real names. For instance, School 34 is really Eleanor Skillen School 34.

Don’t look for additions to this roster anytime soon. “IPS hasn’t constructed a new building in years,” according to Mary Louise Bewley, former director of the IPS Office of School and Community Relations. “When we rebuild schools, they simply go by their previous name and number.”

While no School 1 remains today, The Hoosierist can only imagine the wait list of ambitious parents trying to get their progeny into that establishment.


Q: If I want to go caving in Indiana, can I just pick out a promising-looking limestone fissure and squeeze in?
Susan P., Indianapolis

A: You could, but it’s a terrible idea. And given the innate danger of spelunking (a German word that means “rooting around in places where humans clearly don’t belong”), it might be your last. Which is why, even though there are no state laws or licensing agencies that specifically regulate caving, there are plenty of unofficial safety rules.

“You want to go with experienced people, in a group of at least four, preferably one of whom knows the cave,” says Chris Sparks, faculty sponsor of the Caving Club at IU. Also, tell someone when you’re leaving—and call them after you egress the cave to let them know you’re okay. Just don’t try to call while caving. You can’t get bars when you’re separated from the nearest cell-phone tower by millions of tons of rock.

Sparks recommends learning the ropes (and everything else) by joining a caving club—for instance, Central Indiana Grotto in Indianapolis. Among other things, you’ll learn that this isn’t the most auspicious time to become a caver. Most state-owned caverns have been closed thanks to fears that spelunkers might help spread a fatal (to bats) disease called white nose syndrome. Vandalism has also shut down many privately owned caves. “In some of the nicer ones, people have gone to the trouble of putting a gate on the entrance,” Sparks says. “You have to get access by talking to the landlord and getting the key.”

So remember, Junior Cavers, to dress appropriately, get the key to the cave, and make sure you take along plenty of light sources. That’s something a few nimrods—perhaps forgetting that caves are pretty much where darkness lives—neglect.  


Q: The coming MLB playoffs got me wondering: Is there any chance Indy could ever get a professional baseball team?
Barry T., Fishers

A: The sad truth is, we’ll probably never make it to the Show. There are just too many other teams in our neck of the woods (Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis) whose owners think an Indy franchise would cut into their markets. 

Still, it’s not like we haven’t had chances. In 1878, the city fielded a major-league club called the Indianapolis Blues—for exactly one season. Then in 1884, the Indianapolis Hoosiers debuted, but that team also folded after a single campaign. Again, in 1887, the St. Louis Maroons moved to Indy. Renamed the Hoosiers, they stunk up the Circle City for three seasons before disbanding in 1889. And finally in 1914, the city got its last pro squad, reconstituting the Indianapolis Hoosiers to play in the newly formed Federal League. The team won the Federal League championship that year, which it celebrated by promptly relocating to Newark, New Jersey.

That leaves us with the minor-league Indianapolis Indians, which—as anyone who’s ever taken in a Victory Field game already knows—isn’t a bad deal at all.

This column originally appeared in the September 2012 issue.