Constitutional Carry in doubt after Indiana committee guts legislation

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

The good news for Indiana gun owners is that Constitutional Carry legislation passed out of a key Senate committee on Wednesday. The bad news is that it’s no longer a Constitutional Carry bill.

HB 1077 had already passed out of the House with an overwhelming majority, but its future is very much in doubt in the state Senate after an eight-hour hearing of the Judiciary Committe left the bill stripped of its original intent.

As amended, House Bill 1077 would keep the permit requirement in place to carry a handgun in Indiana. However, it would enable qualified candidates who have applied for a permit to carry a handgun without a license until they receive their permit. The idea is that this would end complaints about delays in the permitting process.

The amendment to gut the bill just narrowly passed by a 6-5 vote, splitting the Republicans on the committee. Every Democrat voted to gut the bill. Shortly after, the committee unanimously voted to advance the bill to the floor. Some were unhappy with the bill, but voted to keep it moving.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Constitutional Carry is officially dead in the Indiana legislature. It’s possible that the bill will be amended once again to restore the permitless carry provisions once the legislation comes up for debate on the Senate floor, though many law enforcement agencies and gun control groups are going to continue their efforts to kill the bill, even if many of their arguments don’t make much (gun)sense.

Critics say there should be a vetting process.

“We will have people walking on our street never vetted by law enforcement, never receiving a background check with loaded firearms around our children,” Jennifer Haan with Moms Demand Action in Indiana said last month.

There are already people doing that right now in Indiana, and if they’re not legally allowed to own a gun they’re not legally allowed to carry it. That wouldn’t change under the Constitutional Carry language in HB 1077. The only difference would be that those who can legally possess a gun in their home could also lawfully carry it in public without the need for a government-issued permission slip.

Gun control activists weren’t the only ones making some odd arguments in opposition to the bill.

Officers also said individuals would have to background check themselves if the permit requirement was nixed, and might not know they aren’t qualified to carry a handgun. Detective Matt Foote from the Fort Wayne Police Department, said 14% of those who applied for permits in his community in 2021 were denied.

That’s actually already an issue. If you don’t know that you’re a prohibited person and you fail a NICS check, you could be charged with a crime for attempting to purchase a firearm (though under federal law prosecutors must prove that you knowingly tried to purchase a gun you weren’t allowed to possess). The responsibility of ensuring that you can lawfully carry already lies with the gun owner, and that wouldn’t change if HB 1077 became law.

Constitutional Carry still has a chance in Indiana this year, but if it’s going to get across the finish line gun owners and Second Amendment activists need to contact their senators and urge them to restore HB 1077 to its original intent when it reaches the Senate floor.

More than 20 states have already adopted Constitutional Carry, and none of them have seen any cause to repeal the law and return to requiring a license to carry (though every Constitutional Carry state with the exception of Vermont still maintains a “shall issue” licensing system for gun owners who want to be able to legally carry in states with reciprocity agreements). Indianans are no less responsible than the residents of Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia, and the other states that have permitless carry laws already in place. The big question now is whether Indiana lawmakers are as supportive of the 2A rights of residents as their counterparts in nearly half of the states across the nation.