The Indiana House is poised to once again approve legislation authorizing all adult Hoosiers legally entitled to own a firearm to carry a handgun in public without obtaining a state license.
On Wednesday, the House Public Policy Committee voted 9-3 to advance House Bill 1077 to the Republican-controlled chamber for a decision, likely next week, on sending the proposal to the Republican-controlled Senate.
The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, repeals the existing licensing requirement to carry a handgun in public, allows Hoosiers wanting a license for out-of-state reciprocity purposes to continue to get one at no cost, and makes firearm theft a level 5 felony punishable by up to six years in prison, instead of a level 6 felony.
Supporters of the plan said it's unconscionable the state of Indiana conditions the exercise of a constitutional right on the need to obtain a license from the state police before doing so.
If enacted into law, public carry of a handgun still would be denied to convicted felons; fugitives; some non-citizens; a person convicted of domestic violence, domestic battery or criminal stalking; a person under a restraining order; a person under indictment; a person formally deemed dangerous or mentally defective; or a person dishonorably discharged from military service.
Handguns also would continue to be prohibited at school buildings. In addition, businesses and homeowners would retain the right to bar customers or guests from bringing a handgun onto their property.
The Indiana State Police led the opposition to the proposal. Major Rob Simpson, deputy chief of staff, said without a handgun licensing system officer safety is at risk because they have no way of knowing whether armed individuals they encounter are legally entitled to be carrying a handgun in public, since there's no comprehensive database of individuals prohibited from carrying a handgun.
"We have a system, it works, and that's why we stand opposed to this particular bill," Simpson said.
State police opposition last year was enough to stop a similar proposal, House Bill 1369, from advancing through the Senate.
At the time, Senate President Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, said eliminating the handgun license without creating a database of denied individuals means Indiana police officers lack the information they need to protect themselves and the general public from people who might intend to cause harm.
"The bottom line is law enforcement's ability to determine who is prohibited from carrying a concealed weapon is important and this bill does not achieve that," Bray said last year.
It's not yet known whether the Senate Republican caucus will be willing to override their chamber leader this year if the permitless carry proposal makes it through the House, or if Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb would sign it into law if it reaches his desk.
Though it takes only a simple majority vote in each chamber — the same needed to approve legislation in the first place — to override a gubernatorial veto and enact a new law notwithstanding his opposition.