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Indiana lawmakers take aim at licensing requirement for carrying a handgun in public

Indiana lawmakers take aim at licensing requirement for carrying a handgun in public

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Indiana Statehouse

The Indiana Statehouse as snow falls in Indianapolis.

Hoosiers legally permitted to own a handgun soon no longer may be required to obtain a state license to carry it in public — either openly or concealed.

The Republican-controlled House Public Policy Committee voted 9-3 Monday to advance legislation eliminating Indiana’s handgun carry licensing system.

If House Bill 1369 becomes law, Indiana would be the 18th state to enact so-called “constitutional carry,” based on the idea that the federal and state constitutions bar any impediments to the right to bear arms.

The measure provides that convicted felons, fugitives, individuals not legally present in the United States, people convicted of domestic violence or criminal stalking, adjudicated mentally defective, dishonorably discharged from the military or National Guard, and individuals under the age of 18 still may not carry a handgun in public.

However, all other Hoosier handgun owners automatically would be entitled to have their weapon with them at all times without the police background check, fingerprinting and fees currently required by Indiana statutes.

The sponsor of the proposal, state Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, said the law only should specify who can’t have a gun, not restrict the ability of “good guys” to enjoy their Second Amendment rights.

There currently is no single database of every person in Indiana prohibited from owning a gun, a concern that spurred opposition to the measure from the Indiana State Police and other law enforcement agencies.

Smaltz said he postponed the effective date of license-free handgun carry until March 30, 2022, to give extra time to the courts, police, mental health agencies, and similar federal, state and local entities aware of potentially disqualified individuals to work together to create a database that can be consulted when police encounter an armed individual in a public place.

State Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, is skeptical that will be enough time — “It can take you a year to rebuild a website,” she said.

The legislation still allows Hoosier handgun owners to go through the licensing process if they want a no-cost “reciprocity license” to lawfully carry a handgun in other states where a license still is required.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates that eliminating handgun licensing fees will cost the state approximately $5.3 million a year in revenue and annually reduce funding for local law enforcement agencies by $3.5 million.

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