Smaltz speaks about gun bill

State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, speaks to the Indiana House of Representatives on Monday about his legislation that would allow a law-abiding Hoosier adult to carry a firearm without having to first obtain a government-issued license. The bill passed out of the House by a 65-31 vote and now can be considered by the Indiana Senate.

INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, has gained Indiana House of Representatives approval for his bill that would allow a law-abiding Hoosier adult to carry a firearm without having to obtain a government-issued license. 

House Bill 1369 passed on a vote of 65-31 this week. If it is approved as written by the Indiana Senate and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, it would take effect March 30, 2022.

“The concept of ‘lawful carry,’ already in place in 16 states, simply allows a legally eligible citizen to legally carry a firearm, without a permit, as allowed by the Second Amendment," Smaltz said in a news release.

"We know criminals are not waiting for a permit to carry a weapon, so why should law-abiding Hoosiers face roadblocks preventing them from defending themselves or a loved one?" he added.

Smaltz said a Hoosier currently must complete a firearm license application online, schedule an appointment to submit his or her fingerprints and then complete local law enforcement agency processing within 180 days.

He said once those steps are completed, the application is submitted to the Indiana State Police for final review. After that process, approved Hoosiers must wait for a permit or rejection notification to be sent through the mail.

Smaltz said there is currently no fee for a five-year personal protection license, and the fee for a lifetime personal protection license is $125.

His bill does not change the process to legally purchase a handgun, according to Smaltz. Individuals still must complete the required Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form and be approved by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Smaltz said this process ensures that only eligible buyers legally can possess handguns.

"Time is the most valuable factor when a person decides to defend themselves," Smaltz said. "This legislation would literally put that defense in their hands the moment their NICS application is approved. Law-abiding Hoosiers can walk out of that transaction and lawfully carry that firearm."

According to Smaltz, reciprocity permits, including 5-year and lifetime permits, still would be available if his bill passes, and current holders of those permits still would receive that benefit. 

Reciprocity permits provide the ability for Hoosiers to carry handguns in 31 other states. In turn, Indiana honors 48 other states' permits.

Under Smaltz’s proposal, the lifetime reciprocity license fee would drop to $75, and the five-year permit would remain free.

Smaltz said 16 states already allow a law-abiding citizen to carry a handgun without a government-issued permit. “Lawful carry” states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Montana and Utah passed “lawful carry” legislation in the past month, making Indiana potentially the 19th state to do the same.

Currently, funds collected from Indiana's handgun permits help subsidize firearms training, ammunition, range training, body armor and other expenses for local law enforcement agencies across the state. Smaltz said any loss in funding for local departments as a result of his bill would be restored through a new appropriation in the state budget, and departments also would continue collecting funds from reciprocity permits.

Smaltz’s bill would enhance the penalty for theft of a firearm from a Level 6 felony to a Level 5 felony, which carries a sentence of 1-6 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The legislation now moves to the Indiana Senate for further consideration.

More information on Smaltz’s House Bill 1369 is available at iga.in.gov.

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