Before Indiana lawmakers vote to make Indiana the 12th state to allow people to carry handguns without a permit, they should listen to those who will deal with the consequences.
"I believe people have the right to carry a gun, but the basic licensing requirement helps ensure that the people allowed to carry are the ones who are carrying," Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed said. "I think there would be even more guns in the wrong hands without it."
"Fewer guns in public places is always a good thing," said Jonathan Ray, president of the Fort Wayne Urban League, who agreed with Reed that the proposal is a bad idea. Allowing only properly licensed gun owners to carry reduces the risk to everyone, he said.
Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, told the Indianapolis Star he will file the bill to allow people to carry a gun without a permit.
"I think the planets are aligned this year," said Lucas, owner of an awning and upholstery business. He also told an Indianapolis TV station he will file a bill to eliminate gun-free zones, including public university campuses, and legislation to give Hoosiers a tax credit for taking gun safety measures, like buying a gun safe or completing a firearms course.
The General Assembly will have gun-friendly Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate, but there also will be a new chairman of the House Public Policy Committee. Auburn Republican Ben Smaltz replaces Tom Dermody, who did not seek re-election. If House Speaker Brian Bosma allows gun legislation to proceed, the public policy committee is likely where it would be assigned.
The speaker told the Star he doesn’t see a need to change the state’s gun laws, but he noted that other House Republicans would have a role in decision-making. Bosma’s continued leadership role is dependent on staying in the good graces of his caucus members.
Smaltz has been a strong supporter of gun rights, co-sponsoring legislation to legalize manufactured sawed-off shotguns and leading the effort to protect gun manufacturers from a lawsuit filed by the city of Gary. But he told the Star he will keep an open mind on Lucas’ proposed bill.
The Fort Wayne police chief said licensing helps ensure that only law-abiding individuals are allowed to legally carry handguns. Permits are denied for anyone with a felony or domestic violence conviction, for certain drug and alcohol convictions and for individuals who have been ruled mentally incompetent by a court.
More than 750,000 handgun permits are in effect, but nearly 4,900 applicants were rejected last year. In the third quarter of this year alone, 157 were rejected in Allen County and 14 in DeKalb County.
Reed said FWPD’s gang and violent crime unit took 84 guns off the streets in all of 2015. As of Nov. 1, they’ve seized 141 guns. The handgun permit requirement is one tool that police can use to get a violent person off the street, he said.
Indiana now has a reasonable restriction on carrying a handgun. Residents of neighborhoods and communities where gun violence has taken a deadly toll shouldn’t be placed at greater risk, nor should law enforcement officers. We trust that Rep. Smaltz and other lawmakers will think of those Hoosiers when they consider Lucas’ overreaching bill.