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‘We’re going to see a lot more people in Walmart open carrying:’ Constitutional carry provisions return in conference committee

As time and bill numbers dwindle on the 2022 session of the Indiana General Assembly, some legislators are flip-flopping legislation to give a permitless carry bill another chance.

Republican conference committee members are pushing to make Senate Bill 209, regarding drug schedules and delta-8 THC, the new home for the deceased House Bill 1077,  which would get rid of handgun permits.

Some legislators were concerned that this measure disregards hours of testimony against HB 1077 from law enforcement. Sen. Rodney Pol, D-Chesterton, said the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from the Fraternal Order of Police and Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, among others.

“Last minute, we’re stripping [SB] 209 and putting [HB] 1077 in,” Pol said. “Pretty much just ignoring—at this point if we were to move forward—all of that, I think very, very relevant and very well-thought-out testimony as to what we’re essentially doing with [HB] 1077.”

The handgun bill died in the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee after being amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The amendment removed the language repealing the permit requirement and would have allowed permit applicants to have provisional licenses to carry while awaiting results.

If the lawmakers in the conference committee get the required sign-offs from their respective caucuses, the bill would reflect the House version of HB 1077, which would allow Hoosiers not prohibited from possessing a firearm to carry a handgun without a license.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said it seemed like the gun legislation was a priority over the delta-8 legislation. Bill author Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, said he would find a way to work it into a different bill.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, was disappointed that the conference committee would not be hearing testimony at Wednesday’s meeting. Committee Chairman Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said this was because the bill would be replaced with HB 1077, which received nine hours of testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Because of this, Taylor asked people interested in testimony to stick around after adjournment of the committee meeting.

Major Rob Simpson, assistant chief of staff communications and information systems for the Indiana State Police (above, right), used this opportunity to discuss the practical implications for police of the permitless carry legislation.

Simpson said police would only know if individuals were unlawfully carrying a gun if they ran a criminal history check, which cannot be done on the side of the road during a traffic stop. Simpson also said that officers need a “criminal predicate.” In a back-and-forth with Taylor, Simpson said this could mean that people who are unlawfully carrying handguns could be let go in traffic stops if there is not a reason to believe they have committed or are committing a crime. Simpson said this means that unlawful carrying of a handgun is more likely to be a secondary charge, added after the fact to an existing criminal charge.

Simpson said about 10,600 gun permit applications have been denied in the state in the past two years. Most of the rejections were for former convictions that the applicants did not list on their applications, he said.

Rep. Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary, said she was concerned about what the bill could mean for the state.

“I don’t want to call it the Wild West,” Hatcher said. “I hope it doesn’t look like that, but I’m definitely concerned about what society could turn into because of it.”

Simpson said the Indiana State Police are also concerned and the bill would add a layer of insecurity to all citizens and law enforcement.

“We’re going to see a lot more people in Walmart open carrying,” Simpson said.

If the amendment to SB 209 receives signatures of support from the four conferees, it is eligible for consideration by both the Senate and the House after review by the rules committees of both chambers. If any of the conferees would not support the change in the bill, legislative leaders have the option of replacing them with another House or Senate member who would support the change.

Pol expressed doubt that his caucus, the Senate Democrats, would OK the bill.

“But at the end of the day, I mean, we’re ultimately gonna have to take this back to our caucus,” Pol said. “Here, this is something that, you know, this is a major, major shift.”

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

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