INDIANAPOLIS - A massive uptick in handgun permit applications is forcing the Indiana State Police to shuffle its staff and hire temporary workers to clear a backlog.
The state got more than 90,000 applications in the first six months of 2013 – more than the 60,000 it received in all of 2012. That’s led 10 more workers to be added to the permit processing staff that usually holds eight to 10 employees.
The increase in applications is a result of high-profile shootings and the debates over gun control that followed, said Indiana State Police Cpt. Dave Bursten.
“It’s become a very politicized issue because you have people on one side of the issue promoting gun rights and people on other side of the issue saying ‘take the guns away,’” Bursten said. “So when people on the other side … hear ‘take the guns’ away, they run out and buy guns before the law changes.”
Indiana lawmakers have promoted gun rights in recent years, with state Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, successfully authoring a series of measures that allowed Hoosiers to carry their firearms onto publicly-owned property.
Still, Bursten said, the debates occurring elsewhere are affecting Indiana.
“Other states are floating trial balloons about increasing the fees for a permit to buy a handgun,” he said. “People think, ‘Well, I better act now before the law changes in Indiana.’”
He said some of the Indiana State Police’s new permit application processors will be temporary hires, and others will be already-employed staff members who will be trained and could again be moved over if backlogs build in the future.
The Indiana State Police is ordinarily required to process handgun permit applications in 60 days. Lately, it’s taken an average of 110 days.
Police explained the delays in a news release this week – and said that after mid-September 2013, the delays should be eliminated and applications should be processed within the required 60-day window.
“Historically, applications received for a license to carry a handgun averaged around 5,200 per month, but increased dramatically toward the end of 2012. January of 2013 resulted in more than 23,000 application requests being submitted to the state police,” the release said.
“The level of demand has marginally decreased in the months that followed, falling to just over 6,500 new license requests in June. However, the overall monthly increase has led to a substantial backlog in applications, pushing processing time to more than 110 days.”
The new staffers should allow the state police to process 45,000 pending applications within eight to 10 weeks. To speed up processing time, police said applicants should submit their applications and fingerprints electronically.
Indiana has issued more than 493,000 total active handgun licenses.