Constitutional Carry bill heads to Indiana House floor

Constitutional Carry bill heads to Indiana House floor
(AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, John Rawlston)

While a Constitutional Carry bill failed to make it out of the Indiana Senate last year, gun owners in the Hoosier state haven’t given up on their push to remove the licensing mandate for those who want to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense. And in the early days of the 2022 legislative session, the idea appears to be a high priority for a number of Republican lawmakers, who sent the bill to the House floor after a key committee vote on Wednesday.

Under the bill, the state’s current gun licensing process would essentially be eliminated. Licenses would still be issued by the state, but the long process towards obtaining it would be done away with.

It would also allow people from outside the state who do not have an Indiana license to carry their handguns anyway.

Supporters, like Corrine Youngs with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, said the bill brings Indiana more in line with other states and that it allows people more freedom to exercise their second amendment rights by “removing red tape” in the process of getting a gun.

“Currently there are 21 states that have permitless carry of handguns,” Kelly Myers, another supporter of the bill, said. “20 previously had licensing requirements. Zero have reinstated it.”

There were several opponents testifying as well, including a representative of the state police.

Maj. Rob Simpson with Indiana State Police was among the contingent of law enforcement officers to testify against the bill. He said it would make their job harder to find people who are carrying illegally.

“There’s not a prohibitor database,” Simpson said. “There’s not a way for the individual on the side of the road because it’s not applicable to run a triple I. And that information will not be readily available.”

He also spoke on how their current system has kept thousands of people from obtaining a gun permit who shouldn’t have one.

“We have a system in place right now, wherein last two years, it has located 10,000 rejections,” he said. “Most of those, the highest reason for those rejections, was a felon applying for a permit.”

Here’s the thing; the state might have rejected carry license applications for 10,000 people in the past two years, but the system doesn’t prevent any of those individuals from choosing to carry a gun in violation of the law. And under the Constitutional Carry legislation, if you can’t legally own a gun, you can’t legally carry it either. Prohibited persons are still prohibited, in other words.

As for Simpson’s argument that a driver pulled over for a traffic stop couldn’t be run through a database to determine if they’re a legal gun owner, why would any officer have cause to determine the legal status of a gun owner if they were simply pulled over for speeding or a traffic violation? For that matter, how often would this issue even come up, given that Indiana gun owners are not required to inform law enforcement that they’re carrying a firearm?

As Kelly Myers told lawmakers, 21 states have already adopted permitless carry statutes and not one of them has reversed course. We’re not dealing with an idea that’s completely new and untried here, and law enforcement in Constitutional Carry states have continued to make arrests for illegal gun possession when appropriate without being impacted by the change in state statute.

With the permitless carry bill now headed to the House floor, prospects for passage appear to be good, at least in that chamber. As I mentioned, however, the Indiana House approved a similar bill last year, only to see it die in the state Senate. Lawmakers instead ended up adopting a bill that removed the fees for a concealed carry license; a move that led to tens of thousands of applications in the first two weeks after the law took effect. I expect that there’ll be some Republican senators arguing that last year’s change goes far enough, but with other states like Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida all poised to adopt Constitutional Carry measures of their own this year, Indiana gun owners aren’t likely to be satisfied with merely keeping the current laws in place.