INDIANAPOLIS — The goal of state Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, to make “lawful carry” of handguns legal in Indiana took a step forward last week.

Smaltz wrote House Bill 1369, which gained momentum with a successful committee hearing Feb. 10, he said.

Should his bill receive the committee’s endorsement and eventually become law, “The lawful citizen in Indiana does not need a permit to carry a handgun,” he said.

“If a law-abiding Hoosier was going to get the permit to carry a handgun, anyway, they just don’t have to,” if his bill passes, Smaltz said. “The bad guy who wasn’t going to get the permit, this doesn’t change anything for them.”

The bill also raises the crime of stealing a gun from a Level 6 felony to a Level 5 felony.

“This bill does not help the criminal in any way, and it actually makes it harder for them,” he said.

“This does not change any handgun purchasing laws. They are going to have to go through the background check. We’re not taking that away,” Smaltz said.

Under his bill, “You still can’t carry in prohibited locations like schools, courts, private property where somebody has posted they don’t want guns there,” he added.

Smaltz’s bill answers one major objection with its promise to replace the $3.5 million in permit fees that would be lost to local police agencies. Police have used that income for firearms training, bulletproof vests and other safety measures.

“We have committed to make them whole, because that’s an important thing for police to be able to do to keep themselves safe,” he said.

In addition to the $3.5 million that will be replaced by state funds, police agencies would be able to keep any money from the continued sale of permits.

Even though permits will not be required in Indiana, Hoosiers still would need them if they wished to carry their handguns in other states, Smaltz said.

In states that already have dropped permit requirements — 16 in all — he said, “It appears there is an initial drop-off in permits that recovers over time when residents realize they still need that reciprocity to cross state lines.”

Indiana currently provides both lifetime and five-year handgun permits. They are supposed to be issued within 60 days of applying, Smaltz said.

“I have citizens who wait months to get their permits,” he said. As another obstacle, people may have to make appointments weeks in advance and drive long distances for the required fingerprinting.

“They shouldn’t have to do this if … they are law-abiding citizens, anyway,” Smaltz said.

Wednesday’s committee hearing on the bill was scheduled for two hours, but lasted four hours, he said.

“I could not have been happier with the number of law enforcement officers who came in uniform to testify in favor of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Smaltz said, noting that 13 officers testified.

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