FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Two top law enforcement officials in Allen County are speaking out against a bill currently in the Indiana Statehouse that would do away with the law requiring Hoosiers to have a permit to carry a firearm.
House Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) authored the bill. Smaltz said he wants to level the playing field so that lawful Hoosier don’t have to jump through hurdles to own a gun. He told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee, that if someone is an unlawful citizen, a criminal, a felon, this bill isn’t for them.
However, Fort Wayne’s police chief and the Allen County Sheriff are against the legislation. Sheriff David Gladieux told WANE 15 that this takes a tool out of his officers’ toolbox.
“They are opening the flood gates and I think this is what this is going to cause as well, people are just going to buy guns and carry them,” said Sheriff Gladieux. “Officers work many different types of investigations. Whether it be a simple traffic stop to a family fight to disturbances to bar fights to things like that. If they come across somebody that’s got a permit, and they are carrying a gun irresponsibly or come across somebody that might have some mental issues that are doing some things they shouldn’t with their firearm we have an avenue to request the state police remove their permit and their ability to carry a firearm legally.”
He added that when officers answer calls, dispatch notifies the officer about whether the person the officer is dealing with has a gun permit or not and if this bill passes that tool is gone.
Rep. Smaltz responded to this by saying that officers should treat every call as a dangerous situation and the presence of a permit is not a shield for their safety.
“There’s 18 states that already do this, officers in those states are not experiencing those situations,” said Rep. Smaltz. “If someone is handling their firearm in an irresponsible way and that elevates to a crime, it should be prosecuted as such.”
Sheriff Gladieux said when he first heard about the bill he didn’t expect it to grow legs. He believes it is a dangerous move and irrelevant. He added that lawmakers are stretching the constitution and setting aside officer and public safety.
“We have a system that works,” said the sheriff. “If they are upset about the process and how long it takes to get the permit maybe they need to fix that.”
The Sheriff and Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed spoke on the behalf of other law agencies; stating the Indiana State Police superintendent, Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, and the State Police Alliance are also against this measure.
“Those groups did testify in opposition, however we had 11 law enforcement officers that came in person or in writing to testify in favor,” Rep. Smaltz said. “We have met with those groups for months and some cases for years to try and come to a place that we all can agree that we need to help the lawful Hoosier and that’s what this bill does.”
Fort Wayne Police Chief Reed stressed that he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but believes in responsible licensing, which is the current state law.
“Looking at the bill, what I’ll deem a lengthy bill, there is a provision in there that puts it on the state police to come up with some type of license or paperwork that someone can have, that way that state will honor their constitutional carry,” Chief Reed said. “But that is already done with the license that currently in place.”
Tamara Watson served as a police officer for 17-years with the Indiana State Police, three of those years she spent undercover. She said before working undercover, she was strongly against the idea of Hoosiers not being required to have a permit to carry.
“Then I worked undercover, and I realized that the law abiding citizens are the ones who have the permits. They are the ones who pay the fee and get the finger prints taken and wait until they get their permit. ” said Watson. “I worked undercover and I worked everyday with what I am going to call the criminal element, I spent time with the current element they all had guns, nobody cared about the permits or fees. When they went and got a gun they usually didn’t get it legally.”
She added that when she was an officer, it was before the firearms permit section was linked to the BMV and she wouldn’t know if anyone had a gun permit or not.
The current permitting process brings in $3.5 million for local law enforcement in the state through the collection of fees. This money is used for such things as firearm training, ammunition, and bulletproof vests. Sheriff Gladieux said it’s not about the money, because police can find another way to make up for the funding.
Rep. Smaltz noted that he knows it’s important revenue for local police and sheriffs departments and the House is committed to replacing the money in full.
“When people get reciprocity permits, which is a permit to carry in another state from Indiana. That revenue also stays at the local unit, so they should see more dollars helping them train, purchase firearms, and body armor then they did today,” said Rep. Smaltz in an interview back in February.
Also back in February when WANE 15 asked viewers if they are for the bill, 960 votes were tallied and 62 percent were in favor.
House Bill 1369 was approved by a mostly party-line vote, it is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Senator Liz Brown, of Fort Wayne.