(The Center Square) – A bill that would allow people in Indiana to carry a handgun without a license will be heard on the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives on Monday and supporters are hopeful it will pass and be signed into law in the coming weeks, making Indiana the 23rd constitutional carry state.
“We’re optimistic for a number of reasons,” says Guy Relford, head of The 2A Project. “One is that the sort of technical objections to last year’s bill aren’t included in this year’s.”
Last year, a similar bill introduced by the same legislator, Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, included a provision that some gun rights groups said would have required the creation of a new database that officers making traffic stops could access to see someone’s criminal history, to make sure they weren’t prohibited from possessing a firearm.
That provision led to opposition from Hoosiers for Gun Rights and others, which called it a “poison pill.”
But another reason Relford, known as “The Gun Guy” on his radio show on WIBC, says he and others are optimistic is he says the data shows in states that have passed constitutional carry, also called permitless carry, crime has not increased.
“We keep getting more and more data and information that completely debunks that,” he says.
House Bill 1077 passed out of committee Wednesday with all nine Republicans voting for it and the three Democrats on the committee voting against it.
It allows anyone who is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law to carry a loaded handgun, open or concealed, on his or her person, or in a bag or in a vehicle.
It thus allows someone to immediately procure a firearm that they can use for personal protection outside their home, Relford said, rather than having to go through a multi-step process of getting a license through the Indiana State Police.
This licensing process involves filling out an online application, getting fingerprinted, and taking those fingerprints to a local police department.
In his testimony before the House Public Policy Committee on Wednesday, Relford held up his mobile phone to the committee chairman to show how long the wait is in Marion County to get a fingerprint appointment. The next available appointment was June 9.
Major Rob Simpson, assistant chief of staff to Doug Carter, superintendent of the Indiana State Police, testified in opposition to the bill, saying in the licensing system now in place, the State Police have been able to stop more than 10,000 people from getting carry licenses who are not legally allowed to carry a handgun – many because they had felony convictions.
"We have a system that works, and that's why we still stand opposed to this particular bill," he told the committee.
He also said the State Police opposed the bill because law enforcement officers at traffic stops would have no easy way of learning whether someone was legally allowed to be carrying the handgun they had in their car or truck.
Relford said while he understands the concerns, he doesn’t think these concerns can outweigh the constitutional rights of citizens to bear arms.
The bill would keep the current licensing process for those gun owners who want to get a license to carry in other states under reciprocity agreements Indiana has. And Relford says it’s likely many people will also continue to get handgun licenses in order to quickly prove to law enforcement they are not legally prohibited from carrying.
More than 1 million people in Indiana have a license to carry – either a five-year license or a lifetime license.
Last year’s constitutional carry bill passed the House but was held up in the Indiana Senate, where the chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, declined to schedule a hearing on it. But this year, Brown has introduced a constitutional carry bill of her own, Senate Bill 14.
“I think this is her way of saying she understands Indiana needs to be on the right side of this issue,” says Relford.