Indiana lawmakers are advancing a bill to eliminate the requirement to obtain a permit to carry a handgun in the state, despite a long line of police agencies lining up to tell them it’s a bad idea.

So much for “backing the blue,” eh?

House Bill 1077, authored by Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, advanced out of committee Wednesday by a 9-3 party-line vote, with all nine Republican members voting for.

The House Public Policy Committee, which Smaltz chairs, took a few hours of testimony on the bill Wednesday, hearing support from a handful of pro-firearms activists but plenty of opposition from several others.

Most notably among those opponents were numerous police representatives including the Indiana State Police, Fort Wayne Police Department, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Indiana Association of Police Chiefs, as well as the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

One of the main benefits police cited to the current permitting system is that it allows police to have information going into an interaction with a member of the public, like a traffic stop or a house call, about whether that person is permitted to carry a firearm.

That information can be valuable to police officers and make their jobs safer.

For example, an officer called to a high-tension domestic disturbance at a home benefits from knowing whether a subject involved may have firearms in the home. It allows an officer to be better prepared to enter that situation and hopefully defuse it safely.

Indiana State Police also noted that around 30% of the more than 10,000 applications rejected in the past two years were because a person had a felony conviction and isn’t legally allowed to carry a firearm.

A rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that a felon isn’t going to go out and get a firearm — illegally — anyway, but it is at least one official notice from the state to remind them that, no, they shouldn’t be possessing a weapon.

Instead, lawmakers seem to prefer a system where those people can just tote their handgun regardless of whether they intentionally are thumbing their nose at the law or simply ignorant of it.

Getting a permit is the lowest of low barriers to accessing a handgun.

Indiana already eliminated fees for lifetime handgun permits, so money isn’t a barrier.

The only impediment to legal access of a handgun right now for law-abiding citizens is the time that it takes to fill out the form and have it approved.

If Hoosiers are so desperate to get a firearm that they need to have it right this instant, that should raise some red flags in itself.

The permit law doesn’t prevent a law-abiding citizen from possessing a firearm.

And while it doesn’t guarantee that a criminal won’t obtain a handgun, it at least has a chance of discouraging a person who has their application rejected from doing so.

Ultimately, police officers are among the Hoosiers most likely to end up on the wrong end of a firearm on any given day. We salute their bravery and service in an important but baseline dangerous job.

If police officers across the state are lining up to say that this is a bad idea, it’s probably a bad idea.

Although they almost certainly won’t, Smaltz and other lawmakers should listen to police and reject this legislation.
© 2022 KPCNews, Kendallville, IN.