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‘Constitutional carry’ gun debate draws opinions at Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Passionate pleas rang through the Statehouse on Thursday about whether the state should consider a bill allowing the “constitutional carry” of handguns.

That means you would not need a permit to carry a handgun.

Nearly 800,000 Hoosiers have a license to carry a handgun. To some, “constitutional carry” is about removing red tape for gun owners and cutting their costs to simply carry a gun in public.

Others are concerned about what it means for safety.

For some, “constitutional carry” is personal.

“My brother was shot and killed in Chicago, and that changed our lives forever,” said Jennifer Crossley, who is part of the group Moms Demand Action, which advocates against gun violence.

Others argue “constitutional carry” is a right.

“The Second Amendment is kind of unique because it’s generally accepted for states to assess a fee to exercise a right,” said Mark Welter, the manager at Indy Arms Co., a gun range and training center in Indianapolis. “When you think about freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, all the other rights we have, that’s not the case.

Lawmakers and Hoosiers packed the House chamber to debate whether Indiana should introduce a bill this winter to potentially join more than a dozen states with “constitutional carry.”

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said this year more than 100 people have been arrested in the county for carrying a handgun without a permit and about half of them were charged with other serious crimes, too.

Some lawmakers said the permitting process does not stop criminals from getting a gun. Curry said it was still vital.

“We require people to get a driver’s license; some people drive without a license,” he said.

“That does not mean we eliminate the prohibitions we have against that.”

But just because you have a permit does not mean you’re carrying, Welter said.

“That’s not going to necessarily improve officer safety or be a detriment to it,” the gun center manager said.

Some lawmakers wondered if there should be a training requirement if “constitutional carry” is enacted by the legislature, but Welter said that should not be the case.

“All you’re doing is mandating a minimum and those minimums are often not enough to prepare someone in a self-defense situation,” he said.

There already are restrictions on who can get a permit, including people convicted of violent felonies.

Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican from Seymour, said he would want that restriction on convicted felons to remain illegal if “constitutional carry” became law in Indiana.

The committee examining this issue will make recommendations to the full legislature later this year.