Indiana bill seeks to eliminate requirement for gun permits

FILE - (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gun rights advocates view the upcoming legislative session as their best bet to get rid of an Indiana law that requires a license to carry handguns.

The controversial legislation didn’t advance during the 2016 session, but supporters believe this time could be different after sweeping Republican wins on Election Day and the appointment of Republican state Rep. Ben Smaltz to the House Public Policy Committee, which acts as a gatekeeper on such bills.

Smaltz has been a staunch advocate of gun rights.

Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas plans to file the bill when lawmakers convene in January.

He and other advocates of the bill, including the National Rifle Association, see licensing requirements and fees as unnecessary impediments to the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Critics of the measure have said it is unnecessary and could have unintended consequences for public safety and the police.

Democrat St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter said if people were not required to have a license to carry a handgun then police would lose a way to quickly obtain information about a person discovered with a concealed weapon during an encounter.

Currently police officers may legally ask a person found with a weapon to produce a permit. In agreement was Republican LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd, who said a valid handgun license also shows a police officer that a person does not have a felony, conviction, history of violence, certain mental illnesses or other factors that could signal danger

“In dealing with the public, we’re working against the clock,” Boyd said, “and if it’s very time-consuming, we may have to let someone go before we find out they’re the subject of a protective order or a convicted felon.”

According to Indiana State Police statistics, police denied licenses to 2,044 people who were deemed unfit to carry handguns through the first three quarters of 2016. The state has more than 750,000 active gun licenses.