Indiana lawmakers revive gun legislation in final days of session

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – In the final days of the legislative session, Indiana lawmakers revived gun legislation that again proved controversial Monday when a conference committee heard more than three-and-a-half hours of public testimony for and against the changes.

“To be honest with you what concerns me more is the process,” State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) said. “It’s being done to essentially help legislators hide from their constituents.”

In what is considered a “strip and replace” move that can oftentimes happen near the end of the session, lawmakers inserted the language into a bill that once dealt with CBD oil. (Another CBD oil bill that would legalize products is still making its way to the governor).

“It’s very procedural, it’s very weedy when you get to the end of the session,” State Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) said. “There is a rule that says if language has passed one house then it still is valid language, it still has meaning, value, you can work it into another bill.”

The measure has two major components.

First it would allow people to carry guns in places of worship on school property. While schools and churches in Indiana can individually ban or permit guns, a church with a school on the property is a different story. Under the legislation, the house of worship or school could still ban guns in the property.

“I do volunteer work at our school which is attached to a church,” one woman testified said. “I do carry. Our principal knows I carry … I feel I have an obligation more than to tell them just to run and hide but to stand and fight to save their lives.”

Debate and testimony spanned multiple viewpoints.

“I and my husband strongly believe guns should not be permitted in schools,” one mom said. “Our lovely school is a safe haven and a home away from home.”

The other provision would remove a four-year handgun license, essentially replacing it with a lifetime permit.

The measure would also eliminate the fee for a lifetime permit, which has worried some law enforcement officials since the revenue collected helps fund police training for incidents like school shootings.

“The assurances we have asked for have not come,” Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer told lawmakers. “Crickets in the room are what we hear. We can’t even get a hollow promise from any of you.”

In response to the concerns, Smaltz said lawmakers are leaning toward holing implementation of the fee elimination until 2019 and potentially putting in writing a commitment to finding a new funding source.

“I think you could say that if this is not funded it fails,” Smaltz said. “So I’m going to check and see what the legal precedent is because that makes sense.”

The session ends on Wednesday.

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