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Bill eases law on alcohol offenders obtaining gun permits

January 4, 2016

Indiana lawmakers will consider a plan to lift state restrictions on alcohol offenders obtaining handgun licenses.

The bill would change a law that prohibits someone deemed an alcohol abuser with certain alcohol-related convictions within three years from getting a handgun license, which is required to carry the weapons in public in most circumstances. The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, also would prohibit questions about drunken-driving violations on handgun license applications or in interviews.

"I don't understand the connection between a DUI and obtaining a handgun license," Tomes told The Indianapolis Star. "If a person is an upstanding individual who is leaving a wedding reception or an anniversary party, or is a husband and wife is out on a dinner date and has too much to drink, well, how would that compute to: Now you shouldn't have a license to own a handgun?"

Tomes said he also believed the state law is redundant because a second drunken-driving offense results in a felony conviction and federal law already prohibits felons from obtaining handguns.

But Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said alcohol-related offenses also could include misdemeanor public intoxication convictions and diversions to alcohol treatment programs, and he believes the current restrictions are reasonable.

Curry, a Democrat, said he was concerned about the proposal because alcohol often accompanies acts of violence.

"Clearly in any number of circumstances, whether it's a fistfight or an argument in a bar or domestic violence or even homicide, in some number of those circumstances there are drugs or alcohol involved," he said.

Tomes' bill would leave handgun license prohibitions on drug offenders intact.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Jan. 13.

Tomes, a longtime supporter of gun rights, sponsored a bill last year that legalized manufactured sawed-off shotguns in the state and another in 2014 that allowed guns in parked cars on school property.

An average of about 81,500 handgun licenses a year are approved by the Indiana State Police, while the agency rejected 255 handgun license applications last year because of false statements regarding alcohol abuse, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

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