Republicans are making a new push to loosen Indiana’s requirements for carrying a handgun in public despite the opposition of several major law enforcement organizations.
The proposal endorsed by an Indiana House committee last week would repeal the state’s handgun permit requirement, allowing 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.
Supporters argue that the permit requirement undermines Second Amendment protections by forcing law-abiding citizens to undergo police background checks and often wait weeks until the process is completed. A similar bill passed the Republican-dominated House last year, but it was not acted upon in the Senate, where GOP leaders pointed to opposition from the Indiana State Police, the state police chiefs association and the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police.
Those organizations continue to argue that the current permit system provides a screening tool for identifying dangerous people who shouldn’t have a gun and make that information quickly accessible to police officers.
Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly told the House committee he believed the risk to officers of dangerous confrontations would increase without the permitting system.
“Should this bill pass, there will be no means for our officers to know if a person is legally carrying a handgun,” said Flannelly, representing the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police.
The chairwoman of the state Senate committee that blocked the repeal effort last year is co-sponsoring a bill similar to the House proposal for this year’s session.
No committee action has yet been set for the Senate bill, and neither Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Liz Brown of Fort Wayne nor Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray immediately responded Friday to requests for comment.
The full House could vote on the bill as soon as Tuesday. Rep. Ben Smaltz, an Auburn Republican who is the House bill’s sponsor, said he was optimistic that the Senate would go along with the repeal this year.
“We’re sending them a much better, more robust bill that I think they’re going to like,” Smaltz said.
Indiana currently requires people to obtain a license to carry a loaded handgun outside their own homes, businesses or cars, although people can generally carry rifles and shotguns without a permit. Twenty-one other states allow residents to carry handguns without permits, which gun rights advocates call “constitutional carry.”
Opponents of changing Indiana’s current law compared it to the requirement of obtaining state-issued identification and registering in order to vote.
Repeal supporters argue that criminals aren’t applying for handgun permits, so only law-abiding people are obeying the requirement.
“I think that the legally lawful people should have the right under our constitution to carry and the prohibited persons are the ones that should have to go through the bureaucracy,” said Republican Rep. Steve Bartels of Eckerty.