March 11, 2022

South Bend, St. Joseph County law enforcement officials condemn permitless carry bill

Article origination WVPE 88.1 Elkhart/South Bend
Justin Hicks / IPB News

Justin Hicks / IPB News

South Bend and St. Joseph County law enforcement officials spoke out Friday against a piece of legislation that would eliminate the need for a permit to carry a handgun in public.

House Bill 1296 passed both houses of the Indiana legislature earlier this week, despite nearly every law enforcement agency in the state opposing it.

South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said the SBPD processed 2,170 handgun permits last year, with a denial rate of roughly 8 percent.

He said those permits are essential in helping law enforcement keep track of who’s using guns legally and illegally.

“This is one of the greatest tools that we have in order to keep somebody who had a gun and shouldn’t have off the street, even if it’s just for a little while,” he said.

In a statement sent Friday, St. Joseph County Sheriff Bill Redman said eliminating permits would also put officers’ safety at risk.

“Nationally, there have been over 70 police officers shot and injured along with 10 police officers killed by gunfire so far in 2022,” Redman said. “The removal of the current gun permit process takes away an additional level of safety for our officers to be able to identify those who have legally gone through the gun permit process versus those who haven’t.”

The state Senate effectively gutted the bill after hearing testimony from the superintendent of the Indiana State Police, but the House revived the original language and passed it on the last day of session.

Proponents of the bill say it puts an unnecessary burden on responsible gun owners, and that those who want to use firearms illegally will find a way to do so.

“That argument is pretty hollow. If you think about it further, why do we have any laws?” South Bend Mayor James Mueller said. “When people break the rules, we find ways to hold them accountable. That’s the point of having these rules in place."

Mueller joined law enforcement officials in calling for a veto of the bill, saying lawmakers were choosing “extreme ideology over common sense.”

Governor Eric Holcomb has yet to either veto the bill or sign it into law.

“This is not about the Second Amendment — everybody agrees on the right to bear arms,” Isaac Hunt, South Bend’s Group Violence Intervention Director, said. “But we’ve also got to be conscious of the availability of guns in the state of Indiana that our young men and women are being able to carry, and we’re burying them everyday.

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