Constitutional Carry prospects improving in Indiana?

AP Photo/David Goldman

Heading into the 2022 legislative session, I would have put the odds of Indiana becoming a Constitutional Carry state at about 60%. Yes, the state legislature is ruby red, with Republicans enjoying veto-proof majorities in both chambers and a Republican governor to boot, but a permitless carry bill that was introduced in 2021 failed to get a vote in the state Senate, instead stalling out in a key committee.

A lot of the blame for the bill’s defeat last year was laid at the feet of Senate President Rodrick Bray, and the legislator’s recent remarks about the prospects of permitless carry in this year’s session indicate that he’s been hearing from both colleagues and citizens unhappy with the lack of progress.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said he expected a Senate committee in the coming week to advance the bill loosening Indiana’s already lenient firearms restrictions that the GOP-dominated House approved last month.

The bill would allow anyone age 18 or older to carry a handgun in public except for reasons such as having a felony conviction, facing a restraining order from a court or having a dangerous mental illness. Supporters argue the permit requirement undermines Second Amendment protections by forcing law-abiding citizens to undergo police background checks.

… Bray said senators were trying to balance Second Amendment rights with the concerns from police.

“As you look around other states that have done the same thing, there haven’t been a lot of other problems, at least that we have seen, that have cropped up as a result of this policy and so we’re trying to cautiously move forward with it,” Bray said.

Even though lawmakers in Indiana didn’t go full Constitutional Carry last year, they did manage to genuinely improve the current concealed carry licensing process by getting rid of all government fees imposed as a part of the licensing process. That was a hugely popular move, with thousands of residents applying for their carry license in the days after the fees were dropped.

That was a big step in the right direction, but a true permitless carry bill would be even better. If you can legally keep a gun in Indiana without a government-mandated permission slip, then why shouldn’t you also be able to bear that firearm in self-defense without having to be pre-approved by your local sheriff?

As Bray notes, there are now nearly two dozen states with Constitutional Carry laws on the books, and not one of them have ever seriously entertained a repeal of the law, in large part because the predictions of gun control activists haven’t come to fruition.

Still, with violent crime on the rise in many Indiana cities (Indianapolis set a new record for the number of homicides last year, for the second year in a row), some police agencies are still speaking out against the idea of Constitutional Carry and claiming that it will fuel violence. I’d argue that rather than trying to fight crime by targeting legal gun owners, both lawmakers and law enforcement should be looking at what can be done to ensure that killers actually face consequences, because at the moment far too many murders are going unsolved.

Indianapolis has a clearance rate just over 54% for 2021, according to IMPD. A case is considered “cleared” once an arrest has been made. No charges or convictions are needed for a case to be considered cleared. That percentage includes crimes that happened in other years but were not solved until 2021.

Oftentimes residents who have information about crimes or witness them are hesitant to come forward, because they don’t trust police and they fear retaliation.

That fuels a vicious cycle – as more and more cases are unsolved, and no arrests or charges take place, people lose even more faith in law enforcement.

More officers on the streets would help, as would more prosecutors in courtrooms. But the city and state should also look at increasing funding for witness protection services, because if eyewitnesses don’t feel safe they’re far less likely to share what they know with police or the D.A.’s office.

Indiana lawmakers can crack down on crime while ensuring the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners remain intact, as long as they have the chance to actually vote on these measures. It does look like Bray’s stance may be shifting on Constitutional Carry, and hopefully that means we’ll see a successful vote in the state Senate this week.