INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers may soon be able to carry a handgun without a permit.
A bill that would make that state law, House Bill 1296, is on Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk after passing the Indiana House and Senate.
The legislation has received heavy criticism from law enforcement officials across the state, and now, the Marion County Prosecutor.
"The elimination of this very minimal requirement of the handgun license going through that process of getting fingerprinted trying to determine whether or not this person has a criminal conviction that would prevent them from having a firearm,” said Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears. “All of those safeguards are no longer in place. "
Republican legislators in a last-minute move Tuesday moved language from Senate Bill 209 — which itself originally had to do with drug scheduling before it was replaced with the original bill's language — into HB 1296.
The legislation has received pushback from many police departments and Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, who testified against it.
"What we have done now is taken the one tool police officer had on the street to be able to act quickly and efficiently for not only their personal safety but the safety of our communities," said Patrick Flannelly, vice president of the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police.
Flannelly and the chiefs association have opposed this legislation every time it’s been introduced. He feels eliminating the permits could lead to more negative interactions with people and make traffic stops longer.
Under current law, people who want to openly carry a firearm in Indiana are required to fill out an application online and submit their fingerprints to their local law enforcement agency. A portion of the current application for an open carry permit requires people to disclose their criminal history.
If HB 1296 passes, gun owners would not be required to do any of that.
Prosecutor Mears feels the elimination of this permit could lead to more guns on the street.
“The real challenge here is that people are going to be able to freely purchase these firearms,” said Mears. “They can buy them over the internet. They can buy them at a gun convention. They can buy them at one of the gun shows."
Supporters of the bill say it's honoring Hoosiers second amendment rights.
“The passage of constitutional carry is a big win for common sense. This new law enshrines the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to bear arms," Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement.
But a second amendment expert says creating regulations around constitutional rights isn't an infringement.
"It's absolutely not unconstitutional to have any kind of permitting system open carry or a permitting system to purchase either,” said IU Bloomington Second Amendment Law Professor Jody Lyneé Madeira.
“With constitutional rights come responsibilities, and it's very important to make sure that there is a responsibility to protect the right. For example, if everyone carries a handgun and everyone does so irresponsibly, then that right becomes meaningless," she added.
Law enforcement and the prosecutor also feel the bill could make crime rates higher.
There is no word yet on if or when the governor plans to either sign or veto the bill.