Hoosier lawmakers poised to possibly recommend eliminating handgun carry licenses

State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, seeks recognition during a recent meeting of a legislative study committee that's reviewing Indiana's handgun carry license requirements.

Dan Carden, The Times

Supporters and opponents of eliminating Indiana's law requiring licenses to carry handguns should be looking for sensible compromise.

And there is plenty of room for reasonable give and take.

A committee of state lawmakers recently met for nearly 10 hours over two meetings, considering a variety of conflicting studies, statistics and reports on the issue.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, represents one side of the issue, arguing the state's license procedure for carrying handguns unconstitutionally limits the Second Amendment.

Lucas is pushing for a bill that would eliminate the license requirement.

Proponents of licensing, including many voices in state law enforcement, argue licensing can help keep handguns out of the hands of dangerous people.

In 2016, for example, 4,802 carry permit applications were rejected by the state police for reasons including prior felony convictions, domestic violence convictions, known mental health issues or recent arrests for gun-related felonies.

As lawmakers of the existing study committee weigh a recommendation on the issue, all members of the Indiana General Assembly should consider compromise.

Hoosiers wishing to carry handguns are required to pay state fees of either $75 for a lifetime permit or $30 for a four-year permit.

It's clear from legislative research that the revenue flowing into the state from the permits exceeds what is actually needed to issue the permits.

When annual revenues from handgun licensing exceeds $1.1 million, the remaining revenue is transferred from the state general fund into the Excess Handgun License Fee Fund, which finance operational costs of the Indiana State Police records division, according to the Indiana Legislative Services Agency.

Eliminating handgun licensing would sap $5.5 million from state coffers in 2018 and $5.6 million in 2019, the agency estimates.

But the purpose behind handgun licensing shouldn't be creating a government revenue stream. It should be focused on public safety.

A sensible compromise could include reducing the permit fee for Hoosiers to the basic cost of performing background checks, not providing millions of extra dollars in government revenue.

Indiana residents have a right to bear arms. State lawmakers and law enforcement have a duty to keep us safe and to take all possible measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous felons or others who would use them to do harm.

As with most issues, the sensible and workable solutions can be found in compromise.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase, Editor Bob Heisse, Politics/History Editor Doug Ross and Managing Editor Erin Orr.