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Harris, IBLC comment on Indiana permitless carry law in wake of several police-action shooting deaths

IBLC, News & Media, Media Releases

Since the beginning of August, two armed African American men have been shot and killed by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers. On Aug. 28, the Northwest Community Resource District Council held a town hall to discuss the recent shootings and the tensions between the African American community in Indianapolis and law enforcement officials.

State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago), chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) issued the following statement:

“I am deeply disturbed by these two incidents, and we in the IBLC will continue to monitor the investigations thoroughly. In order for communities to thrive, it is imperative that there be trust between residents and the law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect and serve. If these investigations find the officers acted inappropriately and without just cause, I urge IMPD leadership and prosecutors to take action to prevent bad actors from tainting their department.

“Furthermore, these incidents require us to look more deeply at the permitless carry bill that was passed through the Indiana General Assembly in 2022 by the Republican supermajority. Despite strong pushback from law enforcement officers, including Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, Indiana Republicans championed a bill that allows any Hoosier over the age of 18 without criminal history to carry a firearm without a permit. This dangerous bill puts the lives of civilians and police officers alike at risk. With an increase of guns in the streets naturally comes an increase in gun violence throughout the state.

“One of my biggest concerns with this law is how it will impact African Americans who are practicing their new right to carry a firearm without a permit. In a perfect world, someone’s race would not have any bearing on the outcomes of an interaction with a law enforcement officer. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and we’ve heard of countless tragedies where Black men, women and children are killed by officers during what should be routine traffic stops and interactions. When you add a firearm into the equation – whether or not the individual has a permit for the weapon – it increases the risk of a police interaction turning deadly. Republicans were warned about this potential outcome, and they passed permitless carry anyway.

“Roughly one year since Gov. Holcomb signed the permitless carry bill into law, Indiana has continued to see unacceptable waves of gun violence. As previously stated, law enforcement officers face increased risks during routine traffic stops because they have no way of knowing if the individual they are interacting with has a gun.  Increased access to guns results in heightened police apprehensions, and almost by default, elevate the likely use of deadly force during encounter. 

“And African American Hoosiers who are simply taking advantage of a permitless carry law like countless other Hoosiers are at an increased risk of being hurt or killed during an interaction with police due to a lack of implicit bias training and the systemic racism that leads people to unfairly view African Americans as threatening or dangerous.

“Moving forward, I hope concerned citizens continue to call for thorough investigations of police-involved shootings and that, if necessary, IMPD holds bad actors accountable. However, with Indiana’s permitless carry law in full effect, my fear is that African Americans will continue to face higher risks and worse outcomes than white Hoosiers while practicing this right. I hope we in the General Assembly can work together to find common ground and compromise in the future regarding common sense gun reform.  We must work together towards promoting justice.”

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