Major relaxing of Indiana gun laws unlikely to advance

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A bill that would allow some people to legally possess sawed-off shotguns seems likely to advance in the coming weeks, though Indiana lawmakers aren't expected to take up separate proposals to significantly relax the state's gun laws.

Bills filed in the General Assembly include proposals to repeal the state's handgun licensing law and to prohibit state universities from banning guns on their campuses.

House Public Policy Committee Chairman Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, said the committee won't consider those bills as it will concentrate on legislation that would legalize Sunday carry-out alcohol sales and efforts to help the state's struggling casino industry. He said those issues are a higher priority since the Legislature is working on the new two-year state budget.

"Right now, I'm focused on those type of bills and the big picture for this session," he said.

A state Senate committee does plan to act on a bill that would repeal the state's ban on sawed-off shotgun possession.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said the change would bring state law into line with federal regulations allowing such ownership of such weapons - also known as short-barreled shotguns - by those who pass background checks for permits from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"They are expensive to purchase, highly regulated and the people who buy those firearms buy them for collection purposes more than anything," Tomes said.

Federal law prohibits someone from altering a shotgun to have a barrel less than a minimum length, he said.

Fourteen of the 50 state senators have co-sponsored Tomes' bill. One of those is Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brent Steele, R-Bedford, who said his committee would consider the proposal within the next few weeks.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, sponsored the bills on repealing the laws for handgun licensing and allowing college campus bans on firearms. Lucas said he wanted to "decriminalize" the lawful carry of handguns by people without criminal records and have state law allow those on university campuses decide how best to protect themselves.

Nicki McNally, Indiana Chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the group was most concerned about those proposals and is pleased that they are unlikely to advance this legislative session.

McNally said college campuses with large number of young adults and frequent alcohol use aren't a proper place for allowing guns and that it is important to keep some safeguards on who can legally carry handguns with the state licensing law.

"We think it generally makes sense for Indiana and will save lives by keeping those basic standards in place," she said.

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