It’s now up to Governor Holcomb to decide whether to eliminate Indiana’s permit requirement to carry a handgun.
The Senate voted 30-20 for the bill, the first time the Senate has voted on the measure. The House had approved the bill earlier.
Auburn Representative Ben Smaltz (R) and Bedford Senator Eric Koch (R), the bill’s author and Senate sponsor, argue law-abiding Hoosiers shouldn’t have to get permission to carry a gun, while criminals aren’t going to worry about permit requirements in the first place. Indianapolis Senator Aaron Freeman (R) says in Marion County, there’s currently a five-week wait just to get fingerprinted to start the process, and says that’s unacceptable for people who need or want a gun for self-defense.
Opponents point to opposition from a wide range of law enforcement groups, including the State Police, the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, and the state’s associations of police chiefs, prosecutors, and public defenders. Fort Wayne Senator Liz Brown (R) charges the bill makes a mockery of pledges to ensure police always have the necessary resources to protect themselves and the public.
The bill still prohibits several categories of people from carrying guns, including convicted felons, the mentally ill, minors, and those dishonorably discharged from the military.
Legislators and police leaders who opposed the bill say the permit system gives officers an immediate heads-up that a person they’ve pulled over may have a gun. Without it, they say, there’s no way to tell whether a person carrying a gun is legally barred from doing so. And State Police say the permit system flagged and rejected 11-thousand applicants over the last two years, about half for criminal records. Another three-thousand had their permits suspended.
No opponent drew as much attention as State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, who watched the entire three-hour Senate debate from the back of the chamber. At a committee hearing on the bill last week, Carter denounced the bill, declaring a yes vote is “a vote against law enforcement” House and Senate Republican leaders bristled, contending the comments crossed a line, while opponents of the bill in both parties repeatedly spotlighted his criticism as reason in itself to oppose the bill.
Holcomb hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill, but has acknowledged it’s among a group of bills which will receive extra scrutiny. And he’s declared he backs Carter “110 percent,” praising the superintendent’s passion for the job.
21 states have already gotten rid of permit requirements, with bills in Alabama and Ohio awaiting a signature or veto from those states’ governors.
Nine Republicans in the Senate and three in the House voted against the bill. Jeffersonville Representative Rita Fleming was the only Democrat in either chamber to vote yes.
If the Indiana bill becomes law, Hoosiers could still apply for permits to allow them to legally carry firearms in states where permits are still required.