Indiana House backs ending gun permits, tighter abortion law

Republicans pushed bills through the Indiana House on Monday that would repeal the state’s permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public and further tighten the state’s abortion laws, joining movements in several other GOP-controlled states.

House members voted 65-31 largely along party lines to eliminate the gun permit requirement that supporters of the move argue undermines Second Amendment protections by forcing law-abiding citizens to obtain the permits. The bill would allow anyone age 18 or older to carry a handgun except for reasons such as having a felony conviction, facing a restraining order from a court or having a dangerous mental illness.

Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Ben Smaltz of Auburn argued that criminals don’t obey the permitting law and that it gives a false promise of keeping guns away from violent people while forcing those allowed to carry guns to undergo police fingerprinting and other steps to obtain the permits.

“It is not a shield, it is not security,” Smaltz said. “Criminals are criminals and are going to do what criminals do.”

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter and leaders of the state police chiefs association and Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, however, testified against the repeal earlier this month, saying it would eliminate a valuable screening tool identifying dangerous people who shouldn’t possess handguns.

Smaltz said he had agreed to delay the repeal until April 2022 to give police departments and state agencies time to develop a database so that police officers could immediately know if they are encountering people prohibited from having firearms.

Democrats questioned whether such a database could be put together for use by police officers because of federal and state privacy laws.
“You can’t say ‘I believe and trust in our men and women in blue and I will stand up for them every single time,’ yet when they come to us and say ‘This is not a good idea,’ we totally and flagrantly disregard their concerns,” said Democratic Rep. Terri Austin of Anderson.

Those seeking gun permits currently pay about $5 million in state fees, along with $3.5 million in permit application fees that local police and sheriff departments now collect and spend on equipment and training. Smaltz said he expected that the Legislature would include money in the state budget so that the local departments would not lose that money.

Similar bills allowing permitless gun carry are being pushed by Republican lawmakers in several states this year.

The Republican-dominated House also voted 67-29 in favor of a bill that would require doctors to tell patients about a disputed treatment to stop a drug-induced abortion after a woman has taken the first of two pills for the procedure.

Abortion opponents argue the bill ensures that women who may change their minds about ending their pregnancies have information about stopping the process by taking a different drug after having taken the first of the two drugs for a medication abortion. Abortion-rights supporters maintain doctors would be forced to provide dubious information to their patients.

Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Peggy Mayfield of Martinsville said she believed the proposal could reduce abortions in the state.

“You make abortion more unthinkable because you are providing the mother with additional information and alternatives to abortion,” she said

Six states already have similar requirements in place, while laws in three other states — North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee — have been blocked by legal challenges, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Medical groups say the “reversal” process is not backed up by science and that there is little information about the procedure’s safety.

Medication abortions accounted for 44% of the roughly 7,600 abortions performed in Indiana during 2019, according to the state health department’s most recent statistics.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which has successfully blocked several anti-abortion laws adopted by Indiana legislators, said that new proposal “runs afoul of the Constitution.” The organization said the bill “would force health providers to lie to their patients and provide dangerous, false and misleading information about abortion reversal, putting patients at risk while ignoring science and the First Amendment rights of medical providers.”

Both bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

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