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'Now the burden is on us': Southern Indiana law enforcement prepares for state to proceed with permitless carry

Starting July 1, Hoosiers will no longer need a permit to legally carry a handgun, joining more than 20 other states in the U.S. including Kentucky.

SELLERSBURG, Ind. — Law enforcement agencies across Indiana are preparing for the potential of more responsibility placed on their shoulders.

Starting Friday, July 1, Hoosiers will no longer need a permit to legally carry a handgun, joining more than 20 other states in the U.S., including Kentucky and Ohio.

"We're making adjustments to how we will have to enforce what the new law states, so there are some challenges facing us that we'll have to work through," said Indiana State Police (ISP) Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, from the agency's Versailles Post. "But the important thing that we want people to know is that this is not a 'free for all' for anybody and everybody to carry handguns in Indiana."

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed the bill into law in March, and it's going into effect despite months of clear opposition from ISP Superintendent Doug Carter.

Carter has voiced that without the ability to ask to see people's permits, there will be an added challenge put on officers. Carrying without a permit is a charge ISP has long used to take deeper looks into criminal histories connected to gun use. 

"We do have tools to check whether someone is prohibited, and now it's just shifted a little bit," Wheeles said. "Now the burden is on us to determine, 'Well okay, is that person a prohibited person?'"

Off-camera, Harrison County Sheriff Nick Smith told WHAS11 the new law puts officers in more danger and hamstrings their ability to protect the community.

Penned by gun rights advocates as 'constitutional carry,' it's being met with a different reaction from some gun shop owners in southern Indiana.

Dustin Kavanaugh, owner of Kavanaugh's Outdoor Supply Company in Jeffersonville, sees this as a necessary next step for the state to protect the Second Amendment.

"It was never designed to where a law-abiding citizen had to prove a right or had to prove eligibility of a right," Kavanaugh said. "The ones who aren't supposed to have guns are still the ones who never had permits, and they're still carrying guns illegally."

Meanwhile, Wheeles said ISP will have to pivot some.

"There are those people out there who are still going to be prohibited, and we have the resources to determine who those people are," Wheeles said.

Kavanaugh said he doesn't see a major loss, as long as firearm training and education stay at the forefront.

Hoosiers still can get a gun permit if they want, and are still encouraged to do so, especially when traveling to other states where it's still required in order to carry.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita released a Gun Owners' Bill of Rights for all Hoosiers Tuesday in preparation of Friday. 

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