INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A proposal to repeal the
state's handgun licensing law was dumped Wednesday by an Indiana House
committee in the face of opposition from several police organizations.
The House Public Policy Committee voted 12-1 Wednesday in favor of an
overhauled bill that keeps the current handgun licensing process while
eliminating what are now fees of up to $125 for a lifetime permit to carry a
handgun in public.
The committee's action sidesteps what could've
become a contentious debate over repealing the permit law that supporters
argue infringes on the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment by forcing gun
owners to get fingerprinted, submit to a police background check and pay the
Law enforcement groups maintain the permitting
process is an important tool for helping make sure anyone carrying a handgun
is legally allowed to do so. Those with felony or domestic battery
convictions can be barred from obtaining a license.
Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Timothy Wesco of
Osceola said a full repeal of the permit law faced some opposition among
"Obviously, that was not a slam dunk so we're
glad to make some steps forward," Wesco said.
The bill, which now goes to the full House for consideration, would keep a
$40 licensing fee for a new five-year handgun permit when taking effect in
Wesco said some gun owners might want to obtain
that permit as it would exempt them from having to undergo new criminal
background checks when buying firearms during that period, which is the
maximum time between background checks allowed under federal law.
Another concern is the loss of licensing fee
revenue, about a third of which goes to city and county police departments
for training and equipment. Wesco said an estimate wasn't yet available on
the revenue loss, which a legislative report projected a nearly $11 million
loss under a full repeal.
Outspoken permit repeal supporter Republican
Rep. Jim Lucas of Seymour said he was "going to hold my nose" by voting in
favor of Wesco's bill and that he would continue to push the issue.
"I am absolutely appalled and disgusted that the
state is concerned about revenue on the licensing of a constitutional
right," Lucas said. "Under current Indiana law, we are criminalizing
innocent people for exercising their constitutional right."
Nearly 835,000 people had active Indiana handgun
permits at the start of this year, according to state police statistics. The
agency approved 72,061 permits during 2017, while rejecting 3,403
Police organizations and gun control advocates
were satisfied with the bill by retaining the licensing process.
"The ability to vet candidates prior to the
handgun permit is a valuable resource to law enforcement in capturing some
of those that should not have permits and be allowed to carry firearms out
in our communities," said Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer, president of
the Indiana Sheriffs Association.
Becke Bolinger of Indianapolis, a member of Moms
Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said she didn't regard the permit
fee as a burden for those who can afford to buy guns and that it would be
wrong to repeal the state permit while mass shootings continue happening
around the country.
"Something has to change and having a gun permit
does nothing but keep people safe," she said.