Off-duty Ind. police could gain right to carry handguns into casinos

The bill currently on the state senate floor originated with two sheriffs who said they never wanted to be without their weapons in case of a mass shooting

Dan Carden
The Times

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier lawmakers have taken the first step toward allowing off-duty police officers to carry handguns while gambling at the state's 13 commercial casinos, including the five casinos in Northwest Indiana.

State regulations currently permit law enforcement officers to be armed in a casino when their "sole purpose for being in the casino is the performance of official duties."

A new bill in Indiana could allow off-duty police officers to carry handguns into casinos. (Photo/TNS)
A new bill in Indiana could allow off-duty police officers to carry handguns into casinos. (Photo/TNS)

The officer also must alert the Indiana Gaming Commission, or its armed in-casino gaming agents, that he or she is carrying a weapon.

Senate Bill 291 would scrap those regulations and prohibit the IGC from adopting any new rule restricting an on- or off-duty law enforcement officer from carrying a handgun in a casino.

As currently written, the legislation authorizes the IGC to bar armed officers from drinking in the casino or entering the casino after drinking.

But state Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, believes that language should be deleted because police officers already have rigorous standards of conduct for their off-duty behavior.

The proposal — which does not lift the ban on civilian casino patrons carrying handguns — originated with two southern Indiana county sheriffs who said they never want to be without their weapons in case they're needed to stop a mass shooting.

"In a time of crisis, seconds matter," said Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding, a Democrat. "You cannot fight a gun absent a gun."

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, was approved by the Judiciary Committee, 8-3.

State Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, voted in favor of the proposal, while state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, voted no.

It now goes to the full, Republican-controlled Senate for possible revisions and a decision on whether to advance it to the Republican-controlled House.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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