If a bill now pending in the Indiana Senate were to become law, gun permits would soon be a thing of the past.

House Bill 1369 passed the Indiana House of Representatives last month by a vote of 65-31. If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, the law would take effect in March 2022.

Let’s hope it doesn’t.

The bill would eliminate the state’s current licensing procedure, allowing anyone not specifically prohibited from carrying a firearm to do so without a license.

Supporters say current law punishes law-abiding citizens and does little to keep criminals from obtaining weapons. People shouldn’t need a license, they say, to exercise a freedom that is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Many police agencies oppose the measure. They say eliminating the screening that is part of the permitting process would put more guns on the streets and make communities less safe. It’s just a fact, they say, that without proper screening, more people who should not own guns will have them.

Indiana already has among the least restrictive gun laws in the country. Hoosiers don’t need a permit to own a handgun, just to carry one.

To obtain such a permit under current law, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and go through a registration process that includes fingerprinting and a background check.

The bill’s supporters say that’s just too much hassle for the average citizen to endure, but the fact is, Indiana law enforcement agencies turned down nearly 4% of applicants last year because of red flags uncovered in those background checks. With more than 120,000 applications, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,800 people who were denied a license last year.

Without a licensing process, every one of those applicants would have a gun today.

There is one other issue with eliminating handgun permits. These licenses generate more than $5 million in annual revenues. That’s money the state uses to pay for the training of police officers. Without that revenue, of course, the state would have to find another source of funding.

It’s undeniable that criminals will find ways to get their hands on weapons with or without a licensing procedure.

Still, the fact that law enforcement is hard doesn’t mean society should give up the effort.

Indiana should do all it can to keep weapons out of the wrong hands. Eliminating handgun permits is a step in exactly the wrong direction.

The Senate should reject this bill, and if it fails to do that, Gov. Eric Holcomb should not hesitate to exercise his veto.

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