2019 Updates to Indiana Self-Defense and Firearms Law

Indiana House Bill 1284

We have some very good news to report regarding Indiana self-defense and firearms law. Governor Holcomb signed HB 1284 into law on April 26, 2019 at the NRA Annual Meetings. In part, HB 1284 provides for civil immunity for the lawful use of force in the defense of the innocent persons. In other words, it provides immunity for a justified use of force after another person (a criminal) attempts to commit a forcible felony (serious violent felonies to include residential entry and burglary) or was attempting to cause unlawful serious bodily injury. The law also provides for the possibility of early dismissal of a civil lawsuit based upon the fact that the law indicates that a rebuttable presumption exists that use of force is justified if a defendant was not prosecuted for the use of force. Additionally, the new law requires a court to award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to a defendant when the justified use of force immunity is successfully raised. Hopefully, this law will end instances where criminals or their families sue victims of crime when the victim lawfully defends the innocent.

What this law does not do – It does not change when force is justified in self-defense or the defense of another innocent. Blood will not be running in the streets as a result of this law. As some critics might allege – this new law will make Indiana like the “wild west,” they are misinformed — at best. Folks – it is still the case that, if you are not justified in using deadly force, and take another life, you will go to prison.

The new law permits a person who may otherwise legally possess a firearm, to possess a firearm in a church even if a school is co-located on the same property if the person possesses the firearm: (1) as an employee or volunteer of a house of worship located on the school property; or (2) while attending a worship service or religious ceremony conducted at a house of worship.

The new law increases the duration of a four-year handgun license to five years. It also provides that an individual may simultaneously hold both a five-year license and a lifetime license. Additionally, the law eliminates state fees for a new five year state license to carry a handgun beginning July 1, 2020, thus eliminating a fee to exercise a fundamental constitutional right, and now making it possible for some of the most vulnerable to more easily protect themselves without worrying about paying a fee to exercise a right. A background check is conducted when obtaining a five-year license. This license would then purportedly allow an FFL to sell a firearm without conducting the typical NICS check at the time a firearm is purchased during that five-year period.

Of interest, is the fact that the new law requires law enforcement, when processing an application for a handgun license, to check criminal history data banks, including the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to determine whether possession of a firearm by an applicant would be a violation of law. One wonders if many in law enforcement who have opposed constitutional carry and support impediments to the exercise of a constitutional right to carry based upon the mantra of “safety,” will decide that “safety” is not as important when the fees for licenses produce less revenue and more work is created to do the additional background checks mandated by the law? Time will tell. The new law also lowers the cost of lifetime licenses.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Representative Jim Lucas, Representative Ben Smaltz, and Attorney Guy Relford for writing and guiding this legislation to passage.

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