After several tries, lawmaker hopes to pass ‘constitutional carry’ bill in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An Indiana lawmaker wants Hoosiers to be able to carry a handgun without a license, and he thinks his proposal could finally have a shot.

Around one in 10 people in Indiana have a license to carry, and that number has gone up by more than 50 percent since 2012.

State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, says that rising demand is part of the reason he wants to free people from applying for that license in the first place.

"To me it’s immoral and even it is criminal ... to force an innocent person to jump through hoops and pay money to the state to prove their innocence and exercise a constitutional right," Lucas said.

Known by many as "constitutional carry," laws like it are on the books in more than 10 states, including four that passed them just this year.

Lucas' bill has yet to get a hearing at the Statehouse, but he's hoping this landslide election for Republicans, as well as changes to some committee leadership positions, could change that.

"It’s time that we step up to the plate and give the people what they’re demanding by sending us here," Lucas said.

State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, is taking over as chair of the House Public Policy Committee, which would be the first place to hear the bill. Smaltz said that he has talked to Lucas about it, and he does support 2nd Amendment rights, but wouldn't confirm whether he expects it get more attention or not, saying he needs to see the finished product once the session begins.

"He’s very up front, very easy to understand and he makes a good case, (but) without actually reading it I can’t really say much more of what the direction will be for it," Smaltz said.

FOX59 talked to people on both sides of the issue. Gun rights attorney Guy Relford said that he thinks the idea is misunderstood, as it would not change who can and cannot own a gun in Indiana.

"This doesn’t suddenly allow anyone (to carry), including criminals or people with mental illness or people under restraining order. This would not allow them to carry a gun," Relford said.

The state's laws against gun ownership for people with any type of felony, or with other restrictions like a misdemeanor for domestic violence, would remain the same.

Others, though, said they didn't like the idea. That included clergy in Indianapolis, who pointed out that gun violence in the city was up and they were trying to get guns off the streets.

Moms Demand Action said it would fight the proposal as well. Indiana chapter leader Stephanie Grabow said she believed doing away with mandatory licenses would set a dangerous precedent.

"It makes no sense to us that we would dismantle the laws that we have right now ," Grabow said.

Lucas said he thinks voters across Indiana showed in this election that they'd support this, given their wide support of Republican lawmakers. He's hoping that his bill will get traction this time around.

"It’s time that we step up to the plate and give the people what they’re demanding by sending us here," Lucas said.

Lucas is also re-introducing a bill that would eliminate gun free zones, including public universities, as well as a bill that would give Hoosiers an income tax credit for taking a gun safety class or other safety measures like buying a gun safe.