The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, February 05, 2019 1:00 am

Democrats want to get hearing on gun laws

House panel OKs bill to limit justified force suits

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The topic of guns is back at the Statehouse – with House Democrats and community groups pushing Monday for an open discussion on firearms regulations.

“I support the Second Amendment, and I support common-sense measures to reduce gun violence,” said Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis.

She and fellow members of her caucus have authored several bills to tighten state gun laws, but House Republicans who control the committees have not given them hearings.

Instead, the GOP is considering reducing fees for gun permits and letting people carry guns to church even if the property also houses a school.

“We need to stop shying away from the conversation,” said DeAndra Dycus, an Indianapolis mother whose 13-year-old son was shot in the head by a stray bullet while at a birthday party.

He can't walk, talk or hug his mom.

“Enough is enough,” Dycus said.

Only moments before the news conference asking for a conversation on things such as background checks and bump stocks, a House committee voted 8-2 to provide immunity against some civil lawsuits when justifiable force was used.

House Bill 1284 doesn't apply just to guns but any use of force in the name of self-defense. It is aimed to keep criminals from suing victims who defended themselves or others.

The bill was significantly amended by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. First, it is no longer retroactive. But the biggest change is that the immunity wouldn't extend to suits brought by bystanders who are injured by the force. Essentially, only the criminal would be affected. 

And the bill was revised to handle the immunity issue during the summary judgment process already in court procedure instead of a new process.

“It maintains the spirit of the bill,” – which is to protect innocent Hoosiers using justified force, said Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour.

Rep. John Young, R-Franklin, said he appreciates the changes but isn't sure they totally fixed the bill.

“I think this is more of a deterrent effect for a plaintiff to file the suit in the first place,” he said.

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