A state legislator wants Indiana to do away with requiring permits to carry firearms and instead adopt a constitutional carry law.
Such a law would eliminate the need for citizens to apply for permits, be fingerprinted and pay fees to openly carry a gun or have a gun in their vehicle.
District 69 Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, said Indiana’s gun permit process is “a burden and infringes on law-abiding citizens’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.” He also said the state shouldn’t be making money on those rights.
Those who oppose Lucas’ bill say by not issuing permits, the state is putting the public at risk by having no way of knowing who has guns and taking away a level of responsible gun ownership.
A gun permit is not needed to purchase a firearm in Indiana; however, the seller is required to conduct state and federal background checks on the person first. If the buyer wants to carry the gun or have it in their vehicle, they must apply and be granted a state-issued permit under Indiana’s current laws.
Gun permits range from $50 for four years to $135 for a lifetime license, including local and state fees and costs for fingerprinting. Most of that money goes into the state’s general fund, resulting in an estimated $4.1 million for the 2017 budget year, according to state analysts. That’s an amount that Lucas said can easily be replaced.
“The state is fundamentally forcing innocent people to jump through unnecessary hoops, pay the state a substantial fee and wait several weeks to prove their innocence and receive permission to exercise a constitutionally protected right,” Lucas said. “This is wrong. We should not be in the business of licensing out constitutional rights.”
Josh Lakins of Hayden said getting his lifetime carry permit was easy, and he doesn’t consider the process a burden.
“I don’t see the point of it, really,” Lakins said of changing the law. “It’s not hard to get your permit, and if it’s because of money, then I don’t think you need to be packing a gun.”
He said even if Lucas’ bill passes, people who shouldn’t have guns will still be able to get them.
“You still have to do a background check to buy a gun at a gun shop or gun show, but you can also buy one out of someone’s trunk in a parking lot with no background check,” he said.
In his fifth year in office, Lucas continues his passionate push for protecting Second Amendment rights. This isn’t the first time he has attempted to gain support for constitutional carry.
He is proposing a second bill that would allow handguns on state property, including state agencies and state-supported colleges. He also supports offering state tax credits as an incentive to gun owners who take a training course in an effort to increase safety.
Lucas said eliminating carry permits won’t increase gun violence but will protect “innocent, law-abiding” people by making it easier for them to defend themselves. Those prohibited from gun ownership, including convicted felons, domestic batterers and those named in a restraining order, still will not be allowed to purchase a firearm through legal channels or carry one.
“I believe we should focus on keeping the bad guys behind bars instead of criminalizing and infringing the rights of innocent people,” Lucas said.
The biggest problem when it comes to gun crime is repeat offenders, he added.
“The overwhelming majority of those arrested for gun homicides have a high average of multiple prior felony convictions, proving that gun crime is nothing more than a revolving door of repeat offenders that should have been behind bars,” he said.
Two years ago, Indiana passed a law that allows for an additional five to 20 years sentencing enhancement to be applied for certain gun crimes.
Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said he supports Lucas’ legislation both personally and professionally.
“It’s not going to make or break anybody,” he said. “Right now, we are just penalizing good people.”
He said the permit process is a hassle and unnecessary because it does not deter crime.
“The people that get the permits aren’t criminals,” he said. “Criminals are still going to be criminals. I have yet to encounter a criminal that had a valid handgun permit.”
He also said people need to be able to protect themselves and their families and shouldn’t need a permit to do so.
“I carry a gun everywhere I go,” he said. “I would if I wasn’t a cop.”
A total of 11 states and Puerto Rico have adopted similar constitutional carry legislation.
For a Hoosier to be able to carry a gun in other states, there will still be an option to receive an Indiana gun license for reciprocity sake, Lucas said.
Robin Ramp, a Seymour teacher, has strongly opposed Lucas in the past on education issues but said she agrees with his views on the Second Amendment and supports constitutional carry legislation.
“I don’t think one should have to pay or be licensed to exercise a constitutional right,” she said. “The best gun control is the availability of gun safety training and harsh penalties for those who use a gun to commit a crime.”
Natalie Jennings of New Whiteland and formerly of Seymour said she understands both sides of the issue.
“While I wholeheartedly support the right to defend yourself and own and carry a gun, I do think reasonable amounts of screening and permits are important,” she said. “A gun is still very dangerous to someone who isn’t trained in how to handle or respect it, much like a vehicle.”
Since she had to pass driver’s education to get her driver’s license and must pay to renew that license and her vehicle registration, she believes it’s reasonable to require the same of owning and carrying a firearm.
Lucas said his bill will not endanger the lives of anyone, including police officers, any more than current laws do. In fact, by showing a firearm, a person can help “de-escalate” a situation, he said.
“There is no way to track a firearm with our current system,” he said. “A permit only tells the officer that that individual went through the bureaucratic process of getting a license and not what is in their hearts or what their intentions are.
“Many mass shooters have passed background checks, and these processes only prove the danger and infallibility of believing a system of paperwork will stop evil,” he said. “This won’t put more guns in the hands of bad people. It will put more guns in the hands of law-abiding people.”
Lucas doesn’t believe in “Wild West” or “blood in the streets” scenarios.
“That’s just extortion by fear,” he said. “We still have to hold people accountable, but we need to enforce the laws that are on the books. Our courts and prosecutors aren’t using the tools they have. I don’t want laws on the books that do nothing.”