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Indiana lawmakers, police differ on gun permit bill

"I think that bills like this make the job of law enforcement more dangerous than it already is," Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said.

INDIANAPOLIS — Republican lawmakers pushed through a bill that would repeal Indiana’s requirement for a permit to carry a handgun in public on Tuesday, further loosening the state’s firearms laws, despite public opposition from the state police superintendent and some major law enforcement organizations.

"I think that bills like this make the job of law enforcement more dangerous than it already is," Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said. "I consider myself pro-gun for people who should be carrying guns. And I include the general public in that. However, we have... we have some people who make terrible decisions in regard to their behavior."

The bill’s provisions would allow anyone age 18 or older to carry a handgun in public except for reasons such as having a felony conviction, facing a restraining order from a court or having a dangerous mental illness. Supporters argue the permit requirement undermines Second Amendment protections by forcing law-abiding citizens to undergo police background checks that can take weeks.

"We just don't feel this bill is solving a problem. We feel like we're taking a step backwards," Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly said.

RELATED: Indianapolis gun shop owner, parents react to controversial bill eliminating gun permit

Flannelly also disagrees with the bill and testified last in January in opposition. 

"We're screening out 10% of the applicants every year, people that think that they're a proper person are submitting applications to carry firearms, when in reality, they're not. They've already have a statutory prohibitation from carrying a firearm," he said. 

The House and Senate approved the repeal as Republican lawmakers revived it last week after conflict among GOP senators had temporarily sidelined the issue.

Senators approved the bill 30-20 after House members earlier voted 68-30, largely along party lines, in what was among the final issues taken up as the Republican-dominated Legislature neared adjournment of this year's session.

"Folks shouldn't have to get permission from the state to exercise Second, First Amendment rights," Sen. Mike Gaskill, R-Pendleton, said. 

RELATED: Indiana legislators pass bill repealing permit requirement to carry handgun in public

Gaskill, who represents the 26th District, was among those who voted for the bill. He argues that gun violence shouldn't increase from what the state is already seeing and that those who shouldn't have a gun won't be able to buy one. 

"The bill will still maintain the in law that certain persons are prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm," Gaskill said. 

Bill sponsor Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, said it was meant for the "lawful Hoosier" who hasn’t done anything wrong and don’t want to be fingerprinted to obtain a handgun permit.

Once the measure arrives at Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk, he will have seven days to sign or veto it — or it would then become law without his signature. The Republican governor hasn’t said whether he supports the concept of not requiring handgun permits, saying last week he would give the bill "careful thought."

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