Indiana residents have the right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by both the federal and state constitutions. But that right isn’t unlimited. Although Indiana has relatively permissive gun laws, the state nonetheless requires a license to carry a handgun, prohibits some people from having guns, and bans certain types of weapons. This article summarizes those laws, as well as the criminal charges for violating them.
In Indiana, it’s illegal to carry a handgun or electronic weapon (a Taser or stun gun with a certain level of charge) on your body or in your vehicle without a license, unless:
Carrying a handgun or electronic weapon without a license is generally a Class A misdemeanor, but it becomes a Level 5 felony if you’ve had a previous conviction for a license violation. It’s also a Level 5 felony if you possess a handgun with the identifying marks altered or intentionally provide false information when applying for a license or buying a firearm. (Learn about punishment for various classes of misdemeanors and felonies in Indiana.) (Ind. Code §§ 35-47-2-1, 35-47-2-2.1, 35-47-2-17, 35-47-8-1, 35-47-8-3, 35-47-8-4 (2019).)
Possession of any gun on school property or a school bus is also against the law in Indiana, except for certain authorized personnel and legal gun owners who keep the weapons locked and out of sight in their cars. Violations of this crime are generally a Level 6 felony, but the punishment is somewhat stiffer (Level 5 felony) if it’s a handgun and you don’t have a license. (Ind. Code §§ 35-47-2-1, 35-47-2-2.1, 35-47-2-17, 35-47-2-18, 35-47-9-1, 35-47-9-2 (2019).)
It’s a crime in Indiana for certain people to possess firearms, including those who:
(Ind. Code §§ 35-47-2-1, 35-47-4-5, 35-47-4-6, 35-47-4-6.5, 35-47-10-1, 35-47-10-5 (2019).)
Indiana’s Firearms Seizure Law
Under Indiana’s version of a “red flag law,” a law enforcement officer may file an affidavit describing why the officer believes someone has a gun and is dangerous; based on that belief, the officer may seize a firearm from the person. If, after a hearing, the court finds the person is actually dangerous, it may issue an order prohibiting the individual from having a firearm (and suspending a handgun carry license, if the person has one). Knowing possession of a gun while the order is in effect is a Class A misdemeanor. An Indiana appeals court found that the law wasn’t a violation of the state constitution’s right to bear arms, partly because it provides a procedure for regaining gun rights. (Ind. Code §§ 35-47-4-6.5, 35-47-14-1—35-47-14-13 (2019); Redington v. Indiana, 992 N.E.2d 823 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013).)
It’s worth noting that Indiana residents, like all U.S. residents, could be charged with a federal crime for possessing a gun or ammunition if they fall within one of the prohibited categories under federal law, including those who have been convicted of any felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, are currently subject to a domestic violence protective order, or have been committed to a psychiatric institution (18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (2019)).
Aiming a loaded gun at someone is a Level 6 felony in Indiana (or a Class A misdemeanor if the gun is unloaded), unless you’re acting in self-defense. The state also imposes stricter penalties if you use or are armed with a deadly weapon while committing other crimes, including battery, robbery, and criminal recklessness. You may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for using a stun gun while committing another crime, or a Level 6 felony for using a stun gun on a law enforcement officer who’s on duty (Ind. Code § 35-42-2-1, 35-42-2-2, 35-42-2-11, 35-47-4-3, 35-42-5-1, 35-47-8-5 (2019).)
Illegal transfers of guns are generally Level 5 felonies, including providing a gun to someone who’s not legally allowed to possess one and making a straw purchase of a handgun (Ind. Code §§ 35-47-2-7, 35-47-2-18, 35-47-4-6.7, 35-47-10-6 (2019)).
Indiana prohibits some types of weapons and ammunition, including:
Possession of a switchblade or throwing-knife is a Class B or Class C misdemeanor, respectively. Civilians who have a machine gun or armor-piercing ammunition may be charged with a Level 5 felony (or Level 4 if they actually a machine gun). (Ind. Code §§ 35-47-5-2, 35-47-5-8, 35-47-5-11.5, 35-47-5-12 (2019).)
If you’re charged with a crime as a result of your possession, use, or transfer of a gun, you should definitely talk to a lawyer. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explain how the law applies to your situation and help you present the strongest possible defense.
Look Out for Legal Changes
Because states can change their laws at any time, you may want to check the current Indiana statutes using this search tool. Court decisions may also affect how laws are interpreted and applied—another reason to consult an attorney if you're concerned about actual or potential weapons charges.