Timothy Wesco

Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, and Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, discuss House Bill 142.

Legislation that would eliminate the fee for a lifetime gun permit passed the Indiana House Monday in spite of concerns that it would affect funding for police training.

House Bill 1424, which passed 70-20, also changes a four-year handgun license to five years.

In its original form, the bill proposed eliminating all handgun permits. Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, author of the bill, stripped that language and replaced it with the changes in permits and fees, saying the state is moving in the right direction.

“Yes, some might not be satisfied with the extent of this bill and want more, but we have to recognize that we’re working under the current system, we’re working a new law, and we hopefully do what we can to make sure that constitutional rights are protected and guaranteed right here in Indiana,” Wesco said.

Rep. Charlie Drown, D-Gary, questioned Wesco about the loss of revenue that many local police departments have used for training. Wesco said the potential loss of revenue would be $6 to $7 million, but Brown countered that he understood it might be closer to $11 million. The Legislative Services Agency, in examining the fiscal impact of the bill, reported the higher number.

“I don’t find that to be rational or reasonable. I think that’s a worst possible case scenario,” Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, said in reaction to Brown.

Wesco pointed out that the fees being charged were significantly higher than the actual cost of issuing the permit and is subsidizing local law enforcement budgets.

“That’s a responsibility we should all share equally, that law abiding gun owners shouldn’t have to carry that extra burden,” he said.

Wesco said the funds would be replaced, and the effective date of the bill has been changed from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019 to ensure this.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, opposed the bill, arguing that no handgun licensing should exist because “licensing a constitutional right is not only wrong, but it’s immoral and dangerous.” He has maintained that limits on gun ownership violate the Second Amendment and in authorizing fees, officials are violating their oaths to uphold the Constitution.

“What’s ironic to me is the implicit thought that we have suddenly got a bunch of brilliantly constitutional scholars and that for decades and decades, people who sat in these chairs, have passed all these laws, charging a small amount of money to get a gun license, they were all violating their oath,” said Rep. Edward DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, in response to Lucas’ comment.

Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, expressed concern with costs, specifically if non-gun license holders should have to pay for those who possess the permits.

“I don’t have a firearm. I don’t have a permit, and I don’t intend to get one. Should I have to pay for somebody else’s? Nobody but me is paying for my license to drive my car,” Errington said.

HB 1424 now goes to the Senate.

Quinn Fitzgerald is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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