Indiana panel avoids specifics, endorsing handgun licensing changes

A legislative panel avoided directly endorsing a proposal to eliminate Indiana’s law requiring a license to carry a handgun in public.

The Joint Committee on Judiciary and Public Policy has spent months hearing testimony on Rep. Jim Lucas’ proposal. The Seymour Republican argues that the license requirement infringes on the Second Amendment.

But rather than make a specific recommendation for the legislative session that begins in January, the panel voted 15-5 Monday to back the removal of what a resolution calls licensing “hurdles.”

Republican Sen. Rodric Bray of Martinsville said those hurdles could entail something as simple as lowering the cost of a license. But Bray said it could also include eliminating the license requirement.

Lucas said Monday lowering the cost would not be enough.

“The constitution is crystal clear,” he said. “We want to work with groups that have concerns and do the best we can, but I will be presenting legislation that restores our constitutional rights.”

Several police organizations, including the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, have supported keeping the state’s current handgun licensing.

Lucas said no proof was ever provided during public testimony that removing the licensing requirement would put officers in more danger.

“There are 13 states that have adopted constitutional carry,” he said. “Vermont has never required a license to carry, and it’s considered the safest state in the nation.”

He also said the state police should not use fiscal impact and the loss of licensing revenue in its opposition to constitutional carry legislation.

“It gives me great concern that our state’s leading law enforcement agency is defending this violation of rights based on monetary gain,” he said.

Lucas said he was “very happy” with the panel’s vote Monday to move forward with the issue.

“They did an excellent job of allowing both sides to present their views,” he said of the hearings. “I’m glad that the facts were allowed to come out. The only people affected by this requirement are innocent, law-abiding citizens.”

Lucas puts much of the blame for people not supporting his proposal on the media.

“The media continues to misrepresent what this bill does and what it does not do,” he said. “It does not allow just anyone to get a gun, and it doesn’t allow anyone to carry a gun. If you are prohibited from owning a gun, you will still be prohibited.”

To prove his point, Lucas even drafted up legislation that would require journalists to be licensed through the Indiana State Police in order to practice their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.

“It was an experiment, and it pointed out the hypocrisy and double standard of this and highlights the dangers of licensing just one right,” he said. “Either all of our rights are safe or they are all at danger. It would be no different than licensing the right to vote or to go to church.”

Until the constitution is amended, it means what it says, and there is no room for interpretation, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.