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Holcomb signs permitless carry bill, leaving critics concerned about safety

As Gov. Eric Holcomb signed House Enrolled Act 1296 into law, reactions and concerns arose regarding the bill and what it will now mean for Hoosiers and the safety of law enforcement officers.

For gun owners, HEA 1296 ensures that they do not have to get a permit for proper handgun ownership. Due to the nature of gun violence in America as well as existing easy access to guns, this bill and similar legislation in other states have become a massive concern for those calling for more gun restrictions.

Superintendent Doug Carter of the Indiana State Police issued a press release in which he expressed a desire to continue a permit system, which he says benefits law enforcement officers and complements laws in other states. Previously, Maj. Robert Simpson (above) had represented the state police in testimony against the bill.

“I, like Gov. Holcomb, feel enormous responsibility for frontline law enforcement officers,” Carter said in a press release. “I will work with law enforcement leaders across our state to make necessary changes to firearms enforcement as well as identifying the best way to identify individuals who are not allowed to carry a firearm as defined by Indiana statute.”

In 2020, 120,000 permits for handguns were filed in the state of Indiana, with roughly 4% of those permits declined for issues with prior felonies, according to The Indianapolis Star.

Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said the passing of the bill was “disappointing” in the midst of law enforcement officers’ testimonies against it.

“The police officers I’ve talked to told me and told legislators that permits help them do their job better,” GiaQuinta said. “When they pull someone over and they can figure out that person has a permit, it allows them to approach that person differently. And now they’re not going to know that, and that’s what I believe is going to make it unfortunately much more dangerous for police officers doing their jobs.”

The state of Missouri recently passed similar legislation and faced higher rates of gun violence as a result, GiaQuinta said, citing it as a state with a similar population density to Indiana. He fears the same thing happening here.

Rep. Earl Harris Jr., D-East Chicago, reacted with shock at the bill’s passing and was concerned for law enforcement officers. Without the safety net of a permit system, Harris believes more violence against police will occur. Additionally, he believes altercations at the local level could occur with businesses deciding to not allow guns inside, similar to the way many were denied service at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and varying mask mandates.

“I’m not anti-gun. I’m anti making our streets less safe,” Harris said.

Moms Demand Action, a nonpartisan grassroots group supporting gun restrictions and safety, was vocal during previous hearings of the bill, often seen traveling in packs at the Indiana Statehouse.

Jane Hedeen, a member of Moms Demand Action, was not fond of what she felt was the dismissive nature of the legislative process, in which Democrats were removed from the committee. Many Hoosiers didn’t want this policy in place, she said.

“I absolutely think that it will endanger the lives of law enforcement,” Hedeen said. “That measure of protection for them is gone. I think that we’re going to see an increase in violence against law enforcement officers as well as violence in general.”

Holcomb, meanwhile, issued a press release characterizing the law as supporting an important constitutional right while underscoring the existing prohibitions of Indiana’s gun laws.

“Twenty-three other states have laws comparable to HEA 1296. Vermont has had a constitutional carry law in place since it became a state, and several other states have had a similar law for more than a decade,” Holcomb said.

“It’s important to note that if a person is prohibited, under federal or state laws, from possessing a firearm before this law goes into effect, that person will still be prohibited. And if a prohibited person has a firearm, he or she can be prosecuted.”

Ariana Lovitt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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