INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican legislators pushed through on Tuesday a bill that would repeal Indiana’s requirement for a permit to carry a handgun in public, further loosening the state’s firearms laws despite public opposition from the state police superintendent and some major law enforcement organizations.
The House and Senate approved the repeal as Republican lawmakers revived it last week after conflict among GOP senators had temporarily sidelined the issue.
Senators approved the bill 30—20 after House members earlier voted 68-30 largely along party lines in what was among the final issues taken up as the Republican-dominated Legislature neared adjournment of this year’s session.
Once the measure arrives at Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk, he will have seven days to sign or veto it — or it would then become law without his signature.
The Republican governor hasn’t said whether he supports the concept of not requiring handgun permits, saying last week he would give the bill “careful thought.”
The bill’s provisions would allow anyone age 18 or older to carry a handgun in public except for reasons such as having a felony conviction, facing a restraining order from a court or having a dangerous mental illness. Supporters argue the permit requirement undermines Second Amendment protections by forcing law-abiding citizens to undergo police background checks that can take weeks.
Bill sponsor Rep. Ben Smaltz, a Republican from Auburn, said it was meant for the “lawful Hoosier” who hasn’t done anything wrong and don’t want to be fingerprinted to obtain a handgun permit.
The repeal proposal easily passed the House in January but faced more skepticism in the Senate, where it stalled last month.
State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, joined by the state’s Fraternal Order of Police, police chiefs association and county prosecutors association, strongly objected the proposal. They maintained the permit repeal would strip officers of a screening tool for quickly identifying dangerous people they encounter who shouldn’t have guns.
Carter, an appointee of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, sharply criticized GOP lawmakers during a state Senate hearing on the bill, blaming “political posturing” for their pushing of the repeal, saying that if lawmakers “support this bill, you will not be supporting us.”
Carter, wearing his state police uniform, stood in the back of the Senate chamber as the bill was being debated.
Indiana currently requires people to obtain a license to carry a loaded handgun outside their own homes, businesses and 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,” in reference to the Second Amendment.
Democratic House Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne argued that legislators should keep the handgun permit requirement in place as a sign of supporting law enforcement “to make their job safer, to make us safer.”
News of the bill passing has garnered more reaction for and against it.
The National Rifle Association of America issued a statement expressing the organizations support and its part in getting it through the statehouse. The NRA state director in Indiana shared this comment:
“Hoosiers value their Second Amendment rights, yet under the current regime they are forced to ask the government for extra permission in order to exercise the fundamental right of carrying a firearm for self-defense. The NRA is proud to have played a key role in getting this bill to the governor’s desk and we hope he will sign it.”John Weber, NRA state director in Indiana. “
Indiana Senate Democrats who opposed the measure also released a statement, that said the bill’s passing happened during “a chaotic scramble of undemocratic back-room dealings.”
“I wish I was surprised by the undemocratic manner that permitless carry language was pushed through the Legislature, but it’s unfortunately all too common at our Statehouse. Despite the opposition from Hoosiers and our top law enforcement officer, this dangerous bill was approved out of the General Assembly, circumventing the proper legislative process and ensuring increased danger in our streets. Our caucus agrees with State Police Superintendent Carter on the risk this legislation will pose and stands with the 18,000 members of law enforcement who do not support this bill.”Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis)