Bill could remove gun permit requirement


If House Bill 1369 becomes law, Hoosiers would not have to have a concealed/carry permit to carry a gun.

Removing that requirement concerns Jasper Police Chief Nathan Schmitt.

“With doing that, anybody can carry a gun, and we have no way of checking to see if they’re someone who should have it,” he said. “It makes it difficult for us to know if you are able to carry it.”

So far, the bill has passed the Indiana House of Representatives. It still has to be approved by the Indiana Senate and signed by the governor to become law.

“When I was a cop, I could care less who had a permit,” said State Rep. Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty, who fully supports passing the bill. “The people who had permits were never the problem; never did I have an issue with them. I always wanted to know who should not have a gun. That’s what I needed to know as law enforcement.”

Requiring permits help officers to be able to tell if a person is allowed to carry a gun, Schmitt said.

“Right now, if someone says this person has a gun, we can ask to see their handgun permit. He has the permit, so he’s allowed to have that gun,” Schmitt said. “Whereas if we go there at three o’clock in the morning, and there it’s just constitutional carry because [the state] repealed this, then we don’t know if that person necessarily should have a gun on them or not. It wouldn’t be until after the fact that we would learn that ‘Oh, wait, this person was convicted of this crime. They shouldn’t have had that gun last night at three in the morning.’ ”

Bartels is a member of the House’s Public Policy Committee, which reviewed the bill and sent it to the full House. During the committee’s hearing on HB 1369, officers voiced their support or opposition to the bill. But they all agreed that they wanted to know who was not allowed to carry a gun, rather than who had a permit, Bartels said.

“That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to say the lawful people can still carry a weapon and unlawful people are prohibited,” he said. “I mean, felons don’t go get handgun licenses and never will.”

The bill includes the creation of a database that would be available to police at any time that would have information about a person’s record. “I supported it because of this new database, which I’m hoping is maybe part of the driver’s license,” Bartels said. “So immediately when I run your driver’s license, your ID card or I run your DOB (date of birth). it comes back that this person is a prohibited person. Now, if I see a weapon and it’s on them, now I know they’re actually breaking the law.”

State Rep. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, said that this is something he has thought about for a while, as the Legislature has considered this move in past years. He also approved passing the bill.

“What pushed me over the edge this year was that I had a handful of constituents reach out during the COVID epidemic, when everybody was locked down,” he said. “They wanted to get their concealed carry permit and were not even able to do so for months at a time. In fact, a couple of them were in the middle of the process and had already paid money to do so.”

The places they need to go to get things done for the permit, like paperwork and fingerprinting, were not allowing people to go inside because of the virus.

“So these folks were not even allowed to then get a concealed carry permit,” Lindauer said.

Based on the testimony he heard, “felonies that were committed with guns were typically committed by people who already weren’t supposed to have them. So really, the only thing we’re doing at this point is making it harder for law-abiding citizens to exercise their constitutional rights,” Lindauer said.

Dubois County Sheriff Tom Kleinhelter is more supportive of the permit requirement staying in place.

“I think there has to be stipulations on who can carry a concealed weapon,” he said. “Having a concealed carry permit allows us police officers to know who has a permit to carry a weapon. It also allows us to generate funds, because there is a lot of paperwork and stuff that has to be done for this. And it does go into our firearms allowance which allows police to buy weapons and ammunition.”

Money would also be provided in the state’s budget to make up for the revenue state and local police departments would lose from not getting revenue from the permits. That stipulation is also included in the bill, Lindauer, Bartels and State Sen. Mark Messmer all said.

Kleinhelter understands why there is a push to not require the permits, he said.

“We all know there are bad people, and if they want to carry a firearm they’re going to carry it. They don’t really care what this permit says,” Kleinhelter said. “So I can see it both ways. But I just think, on the law enforcement aspect of it, I would want to know who has a permit and who doesn’t.”

“Look at it like a driver’s license,” he said. “Yeah, you don’t need a driver’s license to drive a car. But you do need a license to show that you are allowed to drive.”

Huntingburg Police Chief Art Parks said he can see both sides of the argument.

“Bad guys are going to get guns, and they’re going to carry them,” he said. “The way it looks to me is if a good person wants to carry a gun, they’re usually the ones who aren’t. This would open it up to where they could do it without coming down and doing all the paperwork to get a gun permit. I don’t see a problem with that.

“But along with that, I’ve always told people that if you just got that thing on your hip or in your pocket just because you want to look big, that’s not what you should be doing,” Parks continued. “Because where there wasn’t a gun, there’s going to be one now. And it can be taken away from you by a bad guy. So it’s kind of a two-sided sword.”

His concern is more so about a person’s capability to handle the responsibility that comes with carrying a firearm.

“If Indiana says they can just carry it without getting a permit, there’s going be a lot more people carrying them,” Parks said. “And if you’re going to carry it, you have to have the state of mind that you may have to use it. Otherwise, why are you carrying it?

“If they don’t have what it takes to back it up,” he said, “then where there wasn’t a gun there’s one now, and they may get hurt worse and the people around them may get hurt worse.”

Messmer, R-Jasper, and state Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, are both sponsoring the bill in the Senate. Messmer is currently favoring the bill, but said he is still open to hearing public opinion about it before officially casting a vote, should the bill make it out of a Senate committee.

“I would have to hear some, some compelling evidence as to, you know, why not do it at this point,” he said. “All the testimony [so far] didn’t have really any compelling statistical evidence. No state that has done this has had any increase in gun violence, gun crimes or incidents where law enforcement were put in danger because of people potentially having a gun in their vehicle.”

But he is open to hearing other perspectives.

“If someone would come up with a good compelling reason why not to do it, I would listen,” Messmer said. “You know, I’ve had bills that I’ve authored or sponsored that I ended up not supporting because information came up later in the process that changed my mind.”

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