INDIANAPOLIS — The days are counting down until Indiana residents are no longer required to obtain or possess a license or permit to carry a handgun. Here’s where we stand amid a growing conversation around gun reform.

What is the law going into effect on July 1?

House Bill 1296 repeals the law that requires people to obtain a license to carry a handgun in Indiana. This means people who are not otherwise prohibited from carrying or possessing a handgun don’t have to obtain or possess a license or permit from the state to carry a handgun.

The law also makes it a crime to carry a handgun unlawfully. This could be a misdemeanor offense or felony, depending on the circumstance.

Who is prohibited from possessing or carrying a handgun?

While the law allows most people to carry a handgun without a permit, it does prohibit some people from knowingly or intentionally carrying a handgun. This includes:

  • those convicted of a federal or state offense punishable by more than one year
    • except for crimes such as antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, and other offenses related to the regulation of business practices
  • fugitives from justice
  • those not lawfully in the United States
  • those convicted of crimes of domestic violence, domestic battery or criminal stalking
  • those restrained by a protection order
  • those under indictment
  • those who have been determined by a court to be dangerous to themselves or others
  • those who have been determined by a court to lack the mental capacity to contract or manage their own affairs
  • those committed to a mental institution
  • those dishonorably discharged from military service or the National Guard
  • those who renounce their United States citizenship
  • those under 18 years old
  • those under 23 who have been previously found by the court to be a delinquent child.

What is the penalty for violating the new law?

The law specifies that people who carry a handgun unlawfully face a Class A misdemeanor. This is the most serious misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $5,000.

In some situations, people violating the law could face a level 5 felony. This is the same level felony as manslaughter, robbery without injury or criminal recklessness. They carry the potential of 1-6 years imprisonment.

The violation would be a felony if:

  • the offense is committed on or in school property, within 500 feet of school property, or on a school bus
  • the person has a prior conviction of unlawful carrying of a firearm
  • the person has a prior conviction of carrying a handgun without a license before the law was repealed
  • the person has been convicted of a felony within 15 years

The law also enhanced the crime of theft to a level 5 felony if the stolen item is a firearm.

What do law enforcement officials have to say about the new law?

Before Governor Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Chris Bailey wrote an opinion piece in the Indianapolis Star calling for the legislation to be vetoed. Bailey joined Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter in opposition of the law.

“It’s going to embolden those that are already illegally possessing weapons to walk around freely with them, knowing that law enforcement has limited opportunities to engage them, especially if they’re not involved in any other criminal activity,” Bailey said in the March report. “Those who are prohibited from holding a weapon are going to be able to do so freely without many checks in law enforcement, and that’s not very good for our community since we are combatting gun violence all over.”

Since the legislation was signed into law, Carter said his staff is researching best practices for law enforcement agencies across the state to determine a gun owner’s legal status.

“Policing in Indiana is at a crossroads, and more people are leaving than are coming, and there’s only so much that we’re going to be able to do,” said Carter. “With the applicants that we used to have who would apply to carry a handgun in Indiana, we’re not doing mental health checks anymore.”

Not all law enforcement officials were against the legislation. Hamilton County Sheriff Dennis Quackenbush says that there was no evidence in the 24 states that have already passed permitless carry laws that officers face any additional danger.

“Our law enforcement system, our judicial justice system, is founded on the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty. And really, this bill seeks to put the onus on the government to prove that an individual is committing a crime at the time that they are found with a handgun,” Sheriff Quakenbush said in our March report.

Sheriff Quackenbush said while there are provisions that make it more difficult for law enforcement to enforce, he is confident that systems can be put in place to identify those who should not be carrying a handgun.

What do lawmakers say about the new law after the recent mass killings?

In the wake of the Texas mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers, we asked lawmakers about the law that is about to come into effect. The two most powerful leaders at the Indiana Statehouse say that they have no new ideas on curbing schoolhouse violence in the state.

House Speaker Todd Huston said he has no second thoughts about the legislation. Governor Holcomb said he has no doubts about allowing the bill to become law.

Both top Indiana Republicans say the issue of gun violence is complex with multiple factors to be considered, including mental health services. They referred to improved mental health services as a component to any approach to reducing the level of gun violence.

Neither leading Republican would commit to a non-2nd Amendment response to curbing gun violence such as a ban on the type of body armor that mass shooters often wear to protect themselves from police gunfire. This frustrated Superintendent Carter.

“How about we try something? I’m angry about it because that’s why we find ourselves where we are. We cannot continue to say that,” Carter said. “How about we take some responsibility. How about we at least swing at that ball. And to say you can’t do something right now when everybody’s afraid.”

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said his hands are tied, as the city is prohibited from enacting ordinances that countermand state and federal law regarding firearms.

What is going on in the national conversation?

While Indiana is about to see permitless carry take effect, the conversation around gun regulation is growing amid a rash of mass killings and shootings.

The Supreme Court is nearing a decision on a New York gun permit case. The Associated Press reports arguments in November in a case over New York’s gun permit requirements also strongly suggested the court would make it easier to carry a gun in public.

The AP reports it’s not clear whether a series of mass shootings in recent weeks has had any effect on the court’s deliberations or when to release the decision in the New York case.

Oregon is the only state with a gun safety initiative underway for the November election. The Oregon initiative would require anyone wanting to get a firearm to obtain a permit after completing safety training, passing a criminal background check and meeting other requirements.

The U.S. House approved a red flag gun bill. The bill would allow families, police and others to ask federal courts to order the removal of firearms from people at extreme risk of harming themselves or others. The bill is unlikely to pass through the Senate.

The U.S. House also passed a wide-ranging gun control bill that would raise the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds. The AP reported that the bill has almost no chance of becoming law.

The U.S. Senate is pursuing negotiations focused on improving mental health programs, bolstering school security, and enhancing background checks.