Gun bill falls short of repeal


A bill to ease restrictions on those looking to carry a handgun is a step in the right direction but falls short of a Seymour lawmaker’s hopes to repeal all licensing requirements.

House Bill 1424 cleared the Indiana House’s public policy committee by a 12-1 vote Wednesday morning and is now headed to a second reading on the House floor.

“I’m still frustrated, but that’s part of the process up here,” said District 69 Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican and member of the committee.

The bill keeps the current handgun licensing process while eliminating the fee for a lifetime permit, which can cost as much as $125, The Associated Press reported.

It also lengthens the present four-year license to five years while keeping in place the fee for that license. That fee can cost upwards of $40. The bill also exempts permit holders from having to undergo new criminal background checks when purchasing firearms.

If signed into law by the governor, the bill would take effect July 1, 2019.

The committee’s action sidesteps what could have become a contentious debate over repealing the permit law that supporters argue infringes on the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment by forcing gun owners to get fingerprinted, submit to a police background check and pay the licensing fees.

Lucas has been a proponent of repealing all licensing requirements, and he especially is opposed to the collection of the fee for the lifetime permit.

“I am absolutely appalled and disgusted that the state is concerned about revenue on the licensing of a constitutional right,” he said.

Lucas said the lifetime permit fee will be difficult to repeal this year, and roughly $5 million in revenue is collected each year for lifetime permits.

“For the state to lose that, you have to take that into consideration,” he said. “It’s hard to deal with the cost of something when you’re not in a budget year.”

The Associated Press reported a legislative report projected a nearly $11 million loss under full repeal. A third of the fee collected goes to city and county police departments for training and equipment.

More than 835,000 people had active handgun permits at the start of this year, according to the state police. The agency approved 72,061 permits during 2017 while rejecting 3,403 applications.

Lucas and other lawmakers, along with supporters of the repeal of the license, argue the current requirements infringe on the Second Amendment by forcing gun owners to submit to a background check and pay a licensing fee.

“I proposed returning to the Constitution,” he said.

Lucas submitted his own bill calling for a full repeal, but it has not received a hearing.

A legislative committee studied a full repeal, also known as constitutional carry, this past summer.

Lucas said the study brought a lot of education to people throughout the state.

Police organizations and gun control advocates were satisfied with the bill by retaining the licensing process.

“The ability to vet candidates prior to the handgun permit is a valuable resource to law enforcement in capturing some of those that should not have permits and be allowed to carry firearms out in our communities,” said Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer, president of the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association.

Lawmakers will be able to make amendments on the bill when it returns to the floor. If amendments are made, it will go to a third reading before a vote on the bill. That should take place next week before the mid-session break, Lucas said.

The bill would then go to the Senate for consideration.

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