One thing I've learned as I really apply myself to learning about state legislatures and their processes is that several of them have built-in deadlines, beyond which bills that haven't been passed out of committee or even passed by one house of their legislature simply... disappear. Several gun safety bills in Washington State died this way last week.
For the Indiana House, February 5 was such a deadline. Any legislation that hadn't passed the House by the close of business effectively died for the session.
Because of this deadline, the House heard twenty nine bills yesterday, among them one that's been on my radar - HB 1424, which originally was introduced as a bill to repeal any licensing requirement for concealed carry in the state. It was one of a litany of so-called "Constitutional Carry" bills that Republicans have been pushing through states to effectively eliminate any barrier to concealed carry and the clearest indication that the national push for Concealed Carry Reciprocity has set off a race to the bottom as states envision their own provisions becoming the national standard.
That's why it was such a surprise yesterday when the bill's author, Rep. Timothy Wesco (R) voided his own bill with an amendment:
“Forget the original bill,” the Elkhart Republican said.
The change came a day after two people were killed and 18 were injured at a mass shooting at a high school in Western Kentucky. The tragedy wasn‘t mentioned at the committee hearing.
Wesco said there had been some general concerns among House Republicans about the original bill.
House Speaker Brian Bosma previously said he didn‘t see the point of permit-less carry.
The amended bill would now simply remove the fee for a lifetime permit and extend the four-year permit to five years. Under the new language, those who pay the fee for the five-year permit would be exempt from future background checks when purchasing a firearm over those next five years.
This is the fourth consecutive year Indiana Republicans have been unsuccessful in passing a permitless carry bill. It's unclear whether Wesco amended his bill just to get something through because of the legislative deadline, or whether the Kentucky school shooting impacted his decision, or he was somehow moved by the law enforcement officials in attendance to express their opposition to the bill. But the bottom line is even in a body where Republicans have a tremendous numbers advantage, permitless carry - a huge NRA priority - is far from a slam-dunk.
The amendment striking the language was passed by voice vote, and the legislation - now simply a repeal of the lifetime permitting fee, which is still bad, but obviously less so - passed 71-20.