Local law enforcement officials offer mixed opinions on legislation proposed by a local state representative to eliminate the need to obtain a license to carry a handgun.
Three bills have been introduced in the Indiana General Assembly that will change the state’s handguns law.
State Rep. Jim Lucas’ (R-Seymour) bill would eliminate the requirement for a person legally allowed to own a handgun to obtain a license and make it an option. Another of his bills would allow guns at public universities and state office buildings.
A third bill introduced by Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) will repeal a law that makes it difficult for people with repeat alcohol offenses to obtain a handgun license.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Carothers says he sees no problem with Lucas’ bill to eliminate gun permits.
“If a person can legally buy and own a handgun he ought to be able to carry it,” said Carothers.
The sheriff said that the 4-year permit process adds to government bureaucracy.
“A law abiding citizens has to repeat the gun permit process every four years. Eliminating the permit eliminates the bureaucracy,” said Carothers.
But it would also eliminate a source of revenue for law enforcement. For each 4-year handgun permit, the county keeps around $10 and $40 for a lifetime permit, Carothers said.
Crothersville’s Chief of Police Richard Hanlin offers a different opinion.
“I like the idea of handgun owners having to get a permit to carry,” said Crothersville’s Top Cop. “As long as there is no felony on their record handgun owners should be able to get a permit.”
Hanlin said the permit process allows officers to know who may or may not be carrying a handgun.
“In domestic situations or in traffic stops, we can obtain information before getting out of the car as to whether there may be a gun on the premises or vehicle,” he said. “It is an officer safety issue and we then know how to proceed accordingly.”
Residents of Crothersville can obtain handgun permits from the Crothersville Police Department. Hanlin said (like the county sheriff) that the department gets $10 for each 4-year permit and $40 for a lifetime permit. The chief said those fees —estimated at $2,000 to $3,000 a year— are used by the department to purchase equipment such as radar and tasers used by the department.
Hanlin said the local interest in gun permits has increased.
“Just last week we issued four gun permit applications. We normally don’t do that many in a month,” he said.
In Madison County northeast of Indianapolis, Sheriff Scott Mellinger said he is opposed to the elimination of the licensing requirement.
“I’m pro gun,” he said. “Not everyone has retained the right, in my opinion, to carry a handgun.
“Some people have proven that they will resort to violence to solve personal problems,” Mellinger said.
He was also surprised that a state legislator would introduce legislation that would decrease local and state revenues.
Eliminating the permit process “wouldn’t be a good idea for a number of reasons,” Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said. “Law-abiding citizens are conscientious enough to get a permit.”
Cummings said requiring a person to obtain a license allows law enforcement agencies the opportunity to do a background check.
“There are people that shouldn’t be able to carry a gun,” he said. “There are a lot of things that take place behind the scenes. It’s an administrative procedure.”
“Eliminating gun permits is a horrible idea,” Cummings said. “It’s hard to believe that any reasonable person would think that is acceptable. I’m not opposed to gun possession by law-abiding citizens.”
Law-abiding citizens are less likely to use force even when they legally can, he said. “The criminals don’t have the same restrictions against the use of violence,” Cummings said.
Ken de la Bastide of the Anderson Herald Bulletin contributed to this story.