By State Sen. Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville)
During the 2018 session of the Indiana Senate, I have authored and sponsored bills aimed at protecting Hoosiers’ Second Amendment rights. I fully support the Second Amendment and believe Hoosiers have the right to carry a gun whether it’s for hunting or self-protection.
For instance, this year I authored Senate Bill 237, which would have taken our four-year license to five years and allowed Hoosiers to purchase guns without having to go through a background check at every purchase. The bill required a more thorough background check at the time the license was applied for so that the check was not needed every time a gun was purchased. This is permitted by federal law, was a common-sense measure and was a convenience to Hoosiers. This bill passed the Senate unanimously but never got a hearing in the House of Representatives.
Recently, I along with the Indiana Senate have received a lot of criticism for not supporting House Bill 1214, which contained some language from two other gun-related bills – Senate Bill 33 and House Bill 1424. The first, Senate Bill 33, would have allowed churches that have schools on the church property to allow guns in the church during worship service and under certain other circumstances. I gave this bill a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, which I chair, and was pleased to vote for it on the floor of the Senate. Senate Bill 33 passed by a vote of 43 to 5, receiving votes from both Republicans and Democrats. It then went to the House of Representatives. The bill did not get a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The second bill, House Bill 1424, was similar to by Senate Bill 237. However, it made the lifetime gun license offered in Indiana free. The fee is currently $125, and the license is good for life.
The language in Senate Bill 33, permitting guns in churches under certain circumstances, and the language making the lifetime license free were inserted into House Bill 1214 late in the legislative session, which ended on March 14.
My concerns with House Bill 1214 are not related to gun rights, but rather the fiscal impact it could have on our local law enforcement agencies. The fiscal impact is $20 million on our budget ($10 million per year), with much of the money going to local law enforcement agencies in our counties, cities and towns for training. I had many law enforcement officers express their concern about losing these important training funds to the point they contacted me the weekend before the hearing on HB 1214 to express their concern. During the hearing for HB 1214, many law enforcement officials came forward to express this concern. It has been alleged I walked out of that hearing after ten minutes. That is incorrect. I attended the hearing for the first hour then was called away to attend a scheduled Senate Rules Committee, which was necessary to get other bills to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Other members of the Senate from both parties stayed in the hearing until its conclusion to hear the remainder of the public testimony.
Neither I nor several other members of the Senate Republican caucus felt comfortable taking away this valuable funding from our local police departments. In the spirit of trying to achieve a compromise, I authored a conference committee report, which would have made the four-year license free and also included the language allowing guns within churches (from SB 33). This fiscal impact would have been much smaller. In fact, it would have been about $376,000 per year rather than $10 million per year, and would not have put the law enforcement training funds in jeopardy. This was not acceptable to the House conferee, and so the idea did not move forward.
I should also point out one of my pre-session legislative survey questions asked whether we should make gun permits free. In my district and across the State, a large majority of people opposed making the permit free. You are encouraged to view those results at www.IndianaSenateRepublicans.com/Bray.
I fully support Hoosiers’ Second Amendment rights and appreciate the opportunity to explain this complicated issue.
Bray Bray represents Indiana’s 37th district, serving all of Morgan County and parts of Johnson, Owen and Putnam County.