Republicans pushed through the Indiana House on Tuesday a bill that would repeal the state’s permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public.
The proposal, which would loosen Indiana’s already lenient firearms restrictions, passed on a largely party-line 63-29 vote despite the opposition of several major law enforcement organizations. The bill would allow anyone age 18 or older to carry a handgun except for reasons such as having a felony conviction 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.
The bill now goes to the state Senate, where a similar proposal failed last year as Republican leaders pointed to opposition from the Indiana State Police, the state police chiefs association and the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police. A Senate committee, however, is expected to take up the issue in the coming weeks.
Rep. Mitch Gore, R-Indianapolis, a Marion County Sheriff’s Department captain, said during Tuesday’s debate that he shared the concerns of police organizations that eliminating the current permit system would strip police of a screening tool for identifying dangerous people who shouldn’t have a gun and making that information quickly accessible to officers.
“It’s a reasonable way to ensure that society is a little bit safer,” Gore said.
Indiana currently requires people to obtain a license to carry a loaded handgun outside their own homes, businesses, or 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.”
Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, the bill’s sponsor, argued that the permitting system doesn’t stop criminals from carrying guns. Smaltz acknowledged that police wouldn’t have easy access to any listing of people prohibited from possessing handguns but that people shouldn’t be presumed as criminals because they have a gun.
“I think that’s worthy of them investigating if it’s in conjunction with another crime but as far as looking at a database for somebody to know that I’m a good guy, I don’t think that’s the right way to do it,” Smaltz said.