INDIANAPOLIS — In July 2022, a new law, permitless carry, started in Indiana and since then some things have changed in the Hoosier State.
“One of the consequences I think that we can— that I’m not opposed to saying is directly related to that is the number of accidental shootings,” explained IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey. “I think that is an issue that we can relate directly to this permitless carry [law]. People can go out and buy weapons. They don’t have the bureaucracy that existed before for getting the handgun license. And, you know, they’re not trained or know how to operate or clean the gun properly, or safe handling.”
In early February 2023, FOX59/CBS4 reported on the recent accidental shooting of a south-side 3-year-old. A month earlier, in early January 2023, a 15-year-old was shot and killed.
Bailey said since July 2022 when permitless carry started, the department has been tracking accidental shootings. IMPD found non-fatal, accidental shootings more than doubled this February compared to February’s average in the last 5 years. There were as many as 75 of them for the last half of 2022 and more than 75% of those were self-inflicted.
FOX59/CBS4 also requested data for all shootings, including homicides for the last five years, to assess the trends before and during permitless carry.
For the last six months of 2022, with permitless carry in effect, there was no significant increase; in fact, there was and remains an overall decrease back to average shooting totals before the violence spike during the pandemic. Non-fatal shootings slightly peaked above pre-pandemic crime numbers.
The last half of 2022 is a small sample, so metro police crews are still monitoring to understand the full effect the law has.
Before this all started, Assistant Chief Bailey strongly opposed this measure last summer for many reasons, including public safety and justice for victims. As lawmakers debated the measure, he called for a veto.
“We need all the tools available to us and the tool that is now being taken away if this becomes law is going to impede our efforts to link weapons to multiple shooting incidents and to hold accountable those who are committing violent crimes with guns in our city and region,” he said then.
Now eight months after the law’s been in effect, he is focused now on enforcing and adjusting to the measure.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a gun person. I truly believe in the Constitution, and I follow the law– that’s what I’m sworn to do,” he said. “However, the weapons I use, or I have, are ones that I’m proficiently trained on.”
Training isn’t required in Indiana and now neither are permits.
According to data tracking two years of recent statewide and Marion County permit applications, nearly 35,000 Hoosiers applied for weapons permits in 2022 before the new law.
Since the permitless carry has been in effect, there have been nearly three times fewer permit applications statewide, dropping down to nearly 11,000 submissions for a weapons permit. Marion County saw the exact same trend, as seen below.
Superintendent Doug Carter oversees the Indiana State Police, which used to issue these permits.
“I’m a Second Amendment guy, I believe in the Second Amendment,” Carter said in a one-on-one interview with FOX59/CBS4. “But I don’t think any constitutional right is endless.”
Carter said he also strongly and publicly opposed the measure.
“It’s going to embolden those that are already illegally possessing weapons to walk around freely with them, knowing that law enforcement has limited opportunities to engage them, especially if they’re not involved in any other criminal activity,” Carter said back in 2022.
Nearly a year later, ISP’s superintendent said he has moved forward since the legislative debate, but remains concerned.
“Violence is going to continue, and that scares me as I am on the tail end of my career,” he said.
As that threat and reality continue, Carter said he is ensuring more than 18,000 officers understand the permitless carry law and its aftereffects on policing and public safety.
“The Indiana law that had been on the books for a long, long time gave the state police the ultimate responsibility of finding out who’s proper and who’s not— at least as objectively as we could while not violating the person’s rights,” Carter said. “But we don’t do that work anymore. So not only do we not do that work anymore, but we can’t access that at 2 in the morning, roadside. So we don’t know what a person— what their previous history is, if they’re in possession of a handgun.”
IUPUI criminologist Tom Stucky said that this limits officers’ ability to immediately screen guns and flag for Hoosiers who can’t have them.
Now with more gun access in our communities, all three men said that there is a new threat for Hoosiers, including officers.
“The bottom line is that if you have a firearm in any given situation, it inherently makes it more dangerous,” Stucky said when discussing various recent studies on this topic.
When asked if communities are safer when permitless carry measures are in place, the former law enforcement officer said the following:
“The evidence is actually relatively clear… there is either no effect or if there is an effect, it’s to increase violent crime.”IUPUI criminologist Tom Stucky
For law enforcement, no impact would be best. To get there, Carter said officers are urging Hoosiers to review how they interact with law enforcement when armed.
“Tell them [you have a firearm]. Just tell ’em. It’s okay,” Carter said. “If we see your hands – you can’t hurt me if I can see where your hands [are] or [I can see the] people inside the vehicle. And if you feel like you’re being treated inappropriately, there is not the time to try and debate that. That’s where guys like me need to be held accountable.”
Stucky said he agrees with this advice to notify officers during traffic stops of weapons in your possession and to fully understand the new law. The former law enforcement officer warns that permitless carry does not provide a legal pass for how any weapon is used, regardless of the circumstances.
“I would go back to the responsibility piece here. I think at a minimum, there are two things that I would say are absolutely critical,” he said. “One is to understand that that firearm is only yours as long as you are in control of it. So I would never leave a firearm in a vehicle. The other thing is to understand very clearly what the law says around when you can legitimately use your firearm in self-defense.”
To learn more on when the law says Hoosiers can use a firearm in self-defense, click here.
Ultimately, Stucky said that it is our behavior that will shape this law’s future. He added that how Hoosiers use and store guns will ultimately determine the biggest impact of permitless carry.