The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, February 23, 2021 1:00 am

Firearm carry bill passed by House

Measure would end permit requirement

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosiers would no longer be required to get a permit to carry a firearm in public, under a bill approved Monday by the Indiana House, 65-31.

“Criminals are criminals, and they are going to do what they do,” said Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn. “This is a good bill – it takes care of our constituents who follow the law.”

House Bill 1369 now moves to the Senate.

Sometimes called constitutional carry or lawful carry, the measure would add Indiana to 16 other states with no licensing system.

Currently, Hoosiers are required to get fingerprinted and have a background check to get a permit. The processing time used to be days but has been extended under COVID-19 – sometimes taking months – and is a key reason for the bill.

Smaltz said his mother had to drive 70 miles round trip to get her fingerprints taken – all to exercise a constitutional right.

The bill would still prohibit some people from carrying a gun, such as those with a felony conviction, a domestic violence conviction or someone deemed dangerous or mentally unstable.

Smaltz said the legislation directs the Indiana State Police, courts, other state agencies and local law enforcement to create a database showing who shouldn't possess a gun rather than who should.

Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, said the cost of that database is between $6 million and $10 million and there are numerous state and federal privacy concerns that might halt it. The licensing elimination is set for March 2022.

She said several police groups – including the state police – oppose the bill.

“Gun violence is increasing, and it's hard to understand why you are taking this tool away from officers,” Austin said.

Rep. Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis, is a police officer who said gun homicides and violent crimes have spiked in other states where this approach has been adopted. He said that tens of thousands of Hoosiers have been denied permits in recent years – showing not only law-abiding citizens try to carry firearms.

Rep. Stephen Bartels, R-Eckerty, another police officer, disputed that characterization. He said the bill and the new database will make law enforcement safer.

Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, was the only local legislator to vote against the bill.

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