INDIANAPOLIS — GOP Senator Jim Tomes of Evansville came before the Senate Judiciary Committee primed to describe his SB 14 bill to scrap most of Indiana’s handgun permit system and offer amendments to water down his own bill even more to make more Hoosiers eligible for opting out of state firearms licensing regulations.
“It just simply says that if nothing prohibits you from owning a firearm or, if nothing prohibits you from applying for a license, that you can carry your handgun with you without that license,” Tomes told the Republican majority committee. “All the laws we have with reference to guns only apply to the lawful citizen out here. It’s always the lawful law-abiding citizen. Criminals do what they do. No matter how many laws you write and how thick your lawbooks are, they still do what they do.”
Senator Liz Brown, a fellow Republican from Allen County, wasn’t buying it and essentially derailed Tomes’ proposed legislation by announcing straight off that there would be no amendments and no vote on the bill by her committee.
Tomes’ proposal is a companion piece to a similar offer, HB 1077, which, “Repeals the law that requires a person to obtain a license to carry a handgun in Indiana,” which passed over the Senate last week.
Under both bills, only certain persons with documented substance abuse, felony arrests or mental health issues would be precluded from gun ownership and even those caveats were too much for firearms supporters like the National Association for Gun Rights Political Action Committee that announced, while the four-hour-long hearing was still going on at the statehouse, that is, “actively recruiting primary challengers to run against and unseat Republican Indiana State Senator Liz Brown in 2022.
“Sen. Brown is your typical gun hating RINO and it’s time for the residents of district 15 to vote her out of office. Her vocal opposition to restoring the gun rights of law-abiding Hoosiers and years of stonewalling the progress of Constitutional Carry must come to an end,” read the statement.
Second Amendment attorney Guy Relford argued that gun owners should not be forced to seek a government permit to exercise a constitutional right while Sen. Greg Taylor, a Democrat from Indianapolis’ west side and gun owner, sought to wrangle support from guns rights advocates for similar protections for Hoosiers exercising their right to vote.
Relford also argued that the current gun permitting process in Marion County is too onerous with the next appointment to be fingerprinted by IMPD screeners not available until June.
Approximately 1.2 million Indiana residents hold gun permits which past legislatures have moved to make free and last a lifetime.
During a Tuesday meeting of the Public Safety Planning Council in Indianapolis, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said that eliminating the handgun permit would take one more investigative tool away from police officers and prosecutors who utilize the low-level charge as a pretext to examine a gun owner’s criminal history and to test and trace the firearm to determine if it has been used in another crime.
“It’s been an incredibly successful program, but this law is going to wholly undercut law enforcement’s ability to do this because there would no longer be a crime to carry a handgun without a license,” said Mears. “Right now, as we sit here today in Marion County, there are 1,300 cases of individuals who are either charged with A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license or a level 5 felony of carrying a handgun without a license and those 1,300 cases represent 1,300 guns that were taken off the streets that are not only in our community but now we have the ability to test those firearms and link them to violent cases.”
During the first 11 months of last year, IMPD confiscated or recovered 3,452 firearms.
Gun detectives seized nearly 1,200 of those guns and submitted them for further investigation.
Mears said the arrests of four suspects in the murder of a doctor during a home invasion robbery in the Eagle Creek area in 2017 came about after one of the participants was found in possession of a handgun without a permit.
“We had a vehicle that was stopped at a traffic stop,” he said. “The officers recovered a firearm. The person was arrested for carrying a handgun without a license. We inputted that into (databases) which told us this gun was involved in a homicide. From there we were able to locate the individual who we suspected was the shooter. We did a dump of the person’s cell phone and when we looked on their cell phone, we were literally able to place the murder weapon in the defendant’s hands at or near the time the murder took place and we used that information and that person is serving a 50-year sentence in the Department of Correction and they’ve been convicted of murder. It all started with pulling someone over on the side of the road and being able to confiscate that handgun and arresting someone for carrying a handgun without a license.”
Last year there were 271 homicides in Indianapolis, approximately 85% of them committed with firearms.
More than 700 people in Indianapolis survived non-fatal shootings in 2021.
“I echo the prosecutor’s concerns about the permit law. I think we’ve got to speak loudly about that,” IMPD Chief Randal Taylor told the CJPC. “Those who are probably gonna carry responsibly are not really concerned with this. Where I’m concerned with if we no longer are making that a crime, we’re gonna lose a lot of cases.”
At the end of the four-hour-long senate committee hearing, Senator Brown said the chamber would consider further debate of the bill to significantly reduce Indiana’s handgun permit laws.