Handgun permit repeal language revived by Republican lawmakers

Indiana lawmakers have revived a bill that would have repealed Indiana’s handgun permit requirement by putting the language into another vehicle, despite continued opposition to the measure.

Indiana House and Senate Republicans during a Wednesday morning conference committee substituted the House-passed version of the gun permit repeal measure House Bill 1077 for Senate Bill 209, and unrelated bill dealing with drug schedules.

The version of HB 1077 that was approved by the House would allow anyone ages 18 or older to carry a handgun in public without a license unless they have a felony conviction, are facing a restraining order from a court or have a dangerous mental illness.

However, a revision adopted by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 23 following hours of testimony ultimately kept the current permit requirement in place and created an automatic six-month provisional permit so that individuals who have submitted applications don’t have to wait as long to be granted their final permit.

Proponents of the gun permit repeal bill argued the Senate committee’s amendment gutted the legislation.

But law enforcement groups have strongly opposed HB 1077, including State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, who told Senate committee members that if lawmakers “support this bill, you will not be supporting us.”

During a subsequent House-Senate conference committee, conferee chair Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said no testimony would be held on the conference committee report.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said he and fellow Senate Democrats had new information they wanted to present. However, Koch said everyone should be familiar with HB 1077 as it left the House given the hours of testimony it received.

“I’m very confident that this issue has been thoroughly vetted,” Koch said.

Republican Rep. Mike Young, who authored SB 209, said he agreed to the decision to strip SB 209 of its original language and that he would “find a place” for it elsewhere.

“It sounds like this gun legislation is of higher priority than the drug schedule legislation,” said Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce.

Democratic Sen. Rodney Pol was the only conferee to speak on the measure, pointing back to the previous testimony in opposition of the gun permit bill.

“All of that absolutely must be considered as part of the decision-making process of this committee,” Pol said. “Last minute we are stripping SB 209 and putting in HB 1077 and pretty much ignoring at this point, if we are to move forward, all of that relevant and well-thought-out testimony as to what we’re doing with HB 1077.”

Pol continued by stating that the move was a “major shift” and that the sentiments from law enforcement criticizing HB 1077 “stung to hear, but I think they ring true.”

Koch closed the meeting by asking the conferees to take the conference committee report back to their respective caucuses for discussion. The conference committee report for SB 209 will now make a stop at the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee.

“This proposal will put more handguns on our streets and add to the challenges many of our urban communities face in addressing violent crime,” Rep. Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary, said in a statement following the meeting. “We are putting politics above public safety.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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