Indiana police will have to adapt to legal changes after the state passed a constitutional carry bill removing restrictions for adults carrying handguns in public.
The law, which takes effect on July 8, will allow anyone over the age of 18 to carry a handgun in public without the need to first obtain a permit or undergo a background check. Exceptions to the rule include people with a dangerous mental illness, convicted felons and those with restraining orders.
Law enforcement groups in the state, along with the police superintendent, vocally opposed the pro-Second Amendment bill, arguing that it would endanger officers by removing a screening tool that allows officers to quickly identify armed and dangerous individuals.
“We have to go through another step or two in order to be able to run a criminal check,” Indiana State Police spokesman Captain Ron Galaviz said. “We won’t necessarily be able to do it there on the side of the road.”
Supporters of the bill argued that the permit requirement, which forces lawful citizens to undergo police fingerprinting and background checks, undermined their constitutional rights guaranteed in the Second Amendment.
According to the Indiana State Police, the new change means that police will no longer be able to ask someone if they are legally carrying a handgun. Officers will also not be able to seize someone’s firearm unless they have sufficient suspicion that the person was or is involved in a crime.
So far, the agency has trained around 1,200 troopers on legal changes related to the law and has provided information to hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the state.
Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter criticized lawmakers for the decision, calling it “political posturing.”
He added that if lawmakers “support this bill, you will not be supporting us.” Following the Senate’s final vote to approve the bill, Carter said the outcome “adds a layer of danger to every police officer.”
However, he assured Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb that he would look for solutions to potential problems posed by open carry laws.
“As superintendent of the Indiana State Police, I have pledged my continued commitment to Governor Holcomb to work toward solutions enacting HEA 1296. I, like Governor Holcomb, feel enormous responsibility for front-line law enforcement officers,” Carter said in a statement following the signing of the bill.
“I will work with law enforcement leaders across our state to make necessary changes to firearms enforcement as well as identifying the best way to identify individuals who are not allowed to carry a firearm as defined by Indiana statute.”
Galaviz said that one obstacle police would face is that they cannot legally create a database of people prohibited from owning guns. In addition, the burden will be on prosecutors and officers to prove that a person carrying a handgun was doing so illegally.
In the past two years, 10 states have passed similar laws, referred to by gun Second Amendment advocates as “constitutional carry” laws. There are 25 states that currently allow constitutional carry.
House Bill 1296 was signed into law on March 21.