INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana legislative panel proved gun shy Monday, when members avoided directly endorsing a proposal that would eliminate Indiana’s law requiring a license to carry a handgun in public.
The Joint Committee on Judiciary and Public Policy had spent more than 10 hours in recent months hearing testimony on the proposal by Republican Rep. Jim Lucas, of Seymour, who argues that the license requirement infringes on the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
But rather than make a specific recommendation for the legislative session that begins in January, the panel voted 15-5 on Monday to back the removal of what a resolution calls licensing “hurdles” for those who want to carry a handgun.
Left unsaid in the resolution is what those “hurdles” are.
“The General Assembly should remove hurdles that restrict the ability of law abiding Hoosiers to exercise their State and Federal Constitutional Rights to bear arms,” the resolution reads.
In the very next paragraph, seemingly contradictory language calls for maintaining the state’s “current licensing system.”
Currently, Indiana residents wish to carry a handgun in public must fill out an application, get fingerprinted and pay a fee, which can top $125. Violent felons and those with domestic battery convictions can be barred from obtaining a license, committee members said.
Sen. Rodric Bray says eliminating the license requirement altogether — which supporters refer to as “constitutional carry” — would definitely remove a hurdle. But the Martinsville Republican, who chaired the committee, said lawmakers may prefer something as simple as lowering the cost of a handgun license, or streamlining the fingerprinting process.
Bray says the purpose of the resolution was to “shine a light on the issue.”
“There are multiple ways to resolve it. Constitutional carry is probably a way to resolve it, but it’s not the only way,” he added.
For his part, Lucas claimed victory following Monday’s hearing.
“I don’t think there’s any ambiguity,” said Lucas, who also suggested that opponents of his proposal were “spinning” what was actually included in the committee’s resolution.
“The way I read it, it recommends doing away with the hurdle: having to get a license,” Lucas said.
Highlighting the vague and seemingly contradictory language in the resolution, the anti-violence group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America claimed victory, too.
“Lawmakers stood up for public safety and refused to give the gun lobby what it wanted,” the group said in a statement. “Indiana’s license requirement for carrying a loaded handgun in public is a popular, common-sense law, and law enforcement officials have made it clear that it helps them protect our communities. We’re grateful that the summer study committee’s recommendation includes keeping this critical public safety requirement in place.”
Lucas, who comes from the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, pushed a similar bill last session. The measure died, but its popularity led GOP leaders who control the Statehouse to have the committee study the matter. The culmination of that process was the resolution approved Monday.
Lucas recently he sought to publicize his cause, suggesting he would author a bill requiring journalists to be licensed to report the news. While Lucas said the proposal would clearly violate the Constitution’s free speech and free press protections, he says it made a powerful rhetorical point.
“It was amazing how all of the sudden media and legal experts all across the country said that language was unconstitutional,” Lucas said. “The point being, either constitutional rights are protected, or they are all at risk.”