INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers on Wednesday revived arguments over gun legislation that would eliminate handgun licensing fees and allow citizens to carry a firearm on church properties that house schools.

The measures died on the final night of session last year, and now are in House Bill 1643 authored by Auburn GOP Rep. Ben Smaltz. A vote will come next week.

“I don't think a citizen should have to pay to exercise a constitutional right,” said Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour. “Our rights should not be dependent on how much revenue the government can make.”

The legislation would eliminate the $125 fee for a lifetime carry license starting in July 2020.

A fiscal analysis shows this would cost the state $3.2 million in revenue in fiscal year 2021. Local police get some of those fees and would lose an estimated $1.6 million in calendar year 2021 and $3.2 million each year after.

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding, president of the Indiana Sheriff's Association, said he is a longtime NRA member but opposes the bill because losing the money would have a tremendous negative effect.

He said counties already don't have enough money to treat the mentally ill or house inmates and this bill would make it worse.

“We're trying to survive,” Wedding said, noting no one has complained about the license fee.

NRA state Director Chris Kopacki said, “When a fee is attached to a right, it really is no longer a right. It's a privilege.”

Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, pointed out that citizens have to pay permit fees to assemble or march despite First Amendment protections.

Indiana citizens also have to buy hunting and fishing licenses despite a constitutional amendment on the right to hunt and fish.
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