Indiana mayors are up in arms about a state law prohibiting local legislators from creating new gun control restrictions in their areas of legislative responsibility. Passed in 2011, the state preemption of local ordinances makes it nearly impossible for municipalities to make additional legislation regarding the sale or carry of guns, ammunition, or firearm accessories.
Proponents of the law argue that without this protection, gun owners would struggle to possess and transport firearms legally within state lines because they would be forced to comply with a patchwork of local laws and regulations. Gun owners and concealed carriers could easily become entangled in a legal nightmare when traveling through individual towns or counties with much tighter restrictions than neighboring areas.
Article 1 Section 32 of the Indiana State Constitution reads “The people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the State.” The state has also enacted Castle Doctrine, right to Carry Confidentiality, and has shall – issue permits for concealed carry. The state also recognizes every other states’ permit.1
But local politicians are not taking this well.
Mayor John Hamilton (D) of Bloomington made national news by writing an opinion piece in the New York Times after two “incidents” in his city. In one incident, a company selling tactical gear put an M60 machine gun on the back of a vehicle serving as a float during community 4th of July parade, while the other incident occurred when a citizen lawfully open carried at a public swimming pool. No one was hurt, threatened, or otherwise harmed.
Hamilton intends on building a coalition with other mayors in the state to lobby the state legislature for changes to the law that would enable local governments to increase burdens on those who purchase or carry firearms in certain jurisdictions. In an interview with Fox59, Hamilton said, “Some common sense gun approaches are important, and as a mayor my people want me to do something ahead of time, not just wait until something terrible happens to respond. The problem is in Indiana I’m not allowed to do anything about that ahead of time.
He continued, saying, “If the state preemption law were to be made less restrictive, or lifted entirely, I think you would have mayors place additional limits on gun dealers in their jurisdictions that say, ‘If we’re going to have a gun show, we’re going to have all transactions take place through background checks, we’re going to have domestic violence laws in this area that apply not only to married couples as they do statewide but also to couples that are dating and dating violence,’ and that’s a loophole that can be closed.”
“The people of Bloomington expect their mayor to protect them against violence.”
Hamilton’s attempt to use domestic violence as reasoning for allowing local politicians to curtail Second Amendment rights does not wholly ring true. Unmarried victims of domestic violence or stalking are able to apply for protective orders under Indiana law (Ind. Code Ann. § 34-26-5-9(c)(4), (f).), and, currently, federal law already says that individuals are prohibited from selling, supplying, transferring, or possessing a firearm or ammunition while the protection order is in place if a hearing has occurred and the subject of the order has received notice. Indiana’s laws go even further, saying that all deadly weapons must be surrendered in the event of being subject to a protective order.
But Brett Bittner who represents Indiana and three other states on the Libertarian National Committee (LNC) thinks that this is a fundamental problem with government: “Unfortunately, society’s been conditioned to run to government to solve problems, rather than being empowered to come up with the best solutions for the situation.”
He also suggested that both sides were missing the mark:
“The idea that a lawmaker supports limiting our ability to protect ourselves, as well as the defined protection within the Bill of Rights is disheartening. Ironically, if the situation were reversed and repeal of restrictions were the issue instead, I don’t think the conversation would even be taking place. There is a power struggle between the state and local governments in this situation, yet none of the conversation is where it belongs, about empowering the people to make the right decisions for themselves.”
Law abiding citizens should not have to worry about additional legal hurdles designed to limit their fundamental, enumerated rights. Rules that ban legal firearms from publicly owned spaces and facilities do not make people safer. Lobbying for new restrictions is, however, a politicalized move to greater, more overreaching gun control measures, and creating an environment in which people are not able to defend their right to life against those who do not follow the law in the first place is dehumanizing.
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