By Seth Morin
People who knowingly distribute firearms to felons - or to someone else who is ineligible to own one - could be charged with a crime under a law that takes effect July 1.
"If you knowingly give a felon a gun, you should be held to a higher standard and suffer a consequence," said Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, an author of the bill.
Under current law, it is legal for someone to knowingly give or sell a firearm he or she owns to a felon. That will all change on July 1.
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That's when someone who sells or transfers a gun illegally will face a Level 5 felony, which is punished by two to eight year in prison.
A person could also be charged with the Level 5 felony if he or she gives or sells a gun to someone the original owner knows is going to commit a crime.
However, the seller can serve six to 20 years under a Level 3 felony if the weapon is used to commit murder.
Also on July 1, the state is implementing a six-tier felony system to replace the current A-D system. Level 1 is the highest felony where the perpetrator can serve at least 45 years in prison.
The new gun law also provides a defense for sellers who use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to try to determine whether the buyer is a felon - and received authorization from NICS to provide the firearm to the individual.
The law would also:
* Increase the crime of theft of a firearm to a Level 6 felony instead of a Class A misdemeanor.
* Allow judges to add 5 years to 20 years to a prison sentence if a person uses a firearm to commit a felony that includes death or serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or criminal confinement.
Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis and one of the authors of the bill, said that he thinks the law is a step in the right direction but that more change needs to be made.
"I still believe enhancements on top of a penalty of punishment need to be more than five to 20 years," Merritt said. "We need to stand tall and send a message to all criminals."
"Our citizens deserve better," he added.
Seth Morin is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.