INDIANAPOLIS – A school shooting that killed 17 last week in Florida added emotion and shifted the discussion Wednesday on an Indiana bill to eliminate some point-of-purchase background checks.
A similar bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this session, but the Senate Judiciary Committee vetted the bill for hours, and the discussion was sometimes tense. House Bill 1424 passed 7-3 and now goes to the Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said “everything has changed since” last week and “you can’t fault us from looking at the perspective of these bills differently.”
He said it’s a tough time to consider any legislation that could be viewed as making it easier to get guns.
Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said everyone’s hearts go out to those in Florida affected by the tragedy.
“I do think recent events will cause us all to do a little bit more soul-searching,” he said. “But we must keep in mind some of the facts.”
Specifically, Delph said the FBI failed in Florida when agents failed to follow up on a tip about the shooter.
He and other Republicans argued the proposed Indiana legislation doesn’t loosen gun regulations and noted that no permitting system is perfect.
House Bill 1424 expands Indiana’s four-year gun permit to five years. Hoosiers would undergo a beefed-up background check every five years, which would likely qualify the state for a federal exemption that would be attractive to some. That exemption would eliminate the need for a background check each time a permit holder buys a firearm.
According to testimony, about 25 states use this process.
“This leaves open a five-year period to purchase as many firearms as they want without having a background check,” said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. “That’s scary.”
The bill also would eliminate the fee for a lifetime permit. But federal background checks when buying a gun would still apply to those permit holders.
The major difference between the House bill and the Senate version is the fee removal, which would cost the state and local law enforcement millions. The bill must therefore move to a fiscal committee.
Taylor brought up Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a South Carolina church in 2015 with a weapon that he legally should not have been able to buy. Taylor said Indiana shouldn’t be relying more heavily on a system that has already proven fallible.
“After the horrifying things we’ve seen happen in this country,” Taylor said, “we have an obligation to citizens to be more critical.”
Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, said the Roof error was caused by a human data entry mistake – not a flaw in the system itself. And as for school shootings, he said “we need to harden these targets and we’ll put a stop to this.”
Democrats were concerned about what happens during the five-year period if a gun permit is revoked but the person still possesses the paper license.
The Indiana State Police said a gun dealer would still have to verify that a license is valid, which is different from a full background check.
Sen. Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, tried to amend the bill to restore fees for lifetime licenses. But other Republicans on the committee balked, leaving the vote on that amendment 5-5. Bray withdrew his amendment, and that issue will be handled later.
Source: Journal Gazette