The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, April 06, 2021 1:00 am

General Assembly

Right-to-carry bill dies in Senate

Brown's panel won't give hearing on ending permits

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Senate will not hear a measure that would have eliminated firearms carry permits in Indiana – a move that kills the bill for the session.

Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and said she would not give House Bill 1369 a hearing. Instead, the Senate will eliminate the $75 fee to get a lifetime carry permit and cover the cost in the state budget. The legislature previously eliminated the five-year permit fee.

But Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn – author of the bill – said it's about more than the fee. He said Hoosiers are waiting months for a permit because of a backlog in getting fingerprints and background checks.

“Why not give the lawful good guy a break for once?” he said.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray posted a lengthy explanation on the topic on his Facebook page Friday. It has drawn more than 400 often-heated comments, and 70 people have shared it.

Smaltz disagrees with the decision, noting the bill had 21 co-sponsors in the Senate – all of them Republican.

“We had the support. We thought we had the vote,” Smaltz said. “We have been working on this bill for a long time, years.”

Nineteen states have similar laws, he said.

Bray said the bill has major flaws that led numerous organizations to oppose it, including the Indiana State Police, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, the Indiana State Police Alliance, as well as pro-Second Amendment groups the National Association of Gun Rights and Hoosier Gun Rights.

He said one key concern is a “poison pill” provision that creates another government database meant to show officers who should not be carrying a gun rather than who should.

Current Indiana law prohibits some Hoosiers from getting a permit – such as those with a felony conviction or a mental illness.

“These groups have said that, due to a variety of reasons including the current state of technology and federal laws governing the use of and access to information, creation of such a database is not possible at this time,” Bray said. “Law enforcement believes being able to access this information in the middle of the night during a traffic stop is important and thus, so do I. The bottom line is law enforcement's ability to determine who is prohibited from carrying a concealed weapon is important, and this bill does not achieve that.”

Guy Relford, a Second Amendment attorney in Carmel, disputed Bray's characterization of the bill. He also has a radio show called “The Gun Guy.”

“This is an outright lie. H.B. 1369 did not mandate any new 'database' at all and certainly did NOT contain a 'poison pill,'” he said in a Facebook post. “The bill simply required a 'process' for getting information in existing criminal history databases, ... to an officer on the street. That process could be as simple as a radio call or an email.”

Bray said Second Amendment freedoms are critically important and “we intend to preserve it.”

To that end, Brown will hear a nonbinding resolution Wednesday that declares the policy of the state is to “protect the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

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