FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana lawmakers appear determined to ease state
gun regulations this year despite reservations from local officials and,
some advocates say, gun owners themselves.
“I wish the Legislature would spend more time making it harder for dangerous
people to get guns rather than making it easier to have guns wherever you
want,” said Paul Helmke, former Fort Wayne mayor and head of the Brady
Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
A raft of bills that would relax gun restrictions is working its way through
the Legislature, including bills that would allow handguns to be more freely
carried without a permit and make it permissible to take guns into public
buildings in most cases, The Journal Gazette reported.
Senate Bill 292 essentially prohibits local governments, libraries and mass
transit systems from regulating guns in any manner. That would eliminate
prohibitions against guns in most municipal buildings and public parks.
State law prohibiting guns on school grounds would stand. And the bill
doesn’t prohibit state regulations on guns, such as state rules passed in
2007 banning guns from the Statehouse and adjoining government center,
though lawmakers get an exception.
There’s another exception for buildings with courts. But Helmke points out
that zoning board meetings and other sessions also can get heated. The bill
does allow governing bodies to restrict “the intentional display of a
firearm at a public meeting.”
Randy Brown, general manager for Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum, expressed
concern that the bill won’t allow the county-run coliseum board to ban
weapons for certain events. “There are some events that are more high risk
than others,” Brown said. “Legislating away our flexibility is a concern. We
are asking for a disaster in this state.”
Supporters argue that events such as concerts and football games wouldn’t be
covered because event goers agree to abide by certain rules when buying
Brown said that isn’t clear in the bill.
Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, the bill’s sponsor, said legislation is needed
to give law-abiding gun owners a break from a patchwork of gun regulations
around the state.
The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House.
Another gun bill that has passed the full House would allow people to more
freely carry handguns without permits, in their vehicle or on the property
of someone who has given consent. Supporters say this would help hunters.
Currently, Hoosiers can have guns at their home or business with no permit.
But they do need a permit to carry handguns elsewhere.
Helmke said the bill is one step closer to “not having licensing at all.”
Tomes said there is no mention of having a license for guns in the Indiana
or U.S. constitutions.
“It would be nice but unlikely to get rid of licenses,” he said.
Yet another bill that already has passed both chambers would prohibit
employers from asking workers about guns and ammunition that they might have
in their vehicles and prevent them from requiring employees with weapons to
park in separate areas.
It’s related to a bill passed last year that barred employers from
prohibiting employees from having weapons in their vehicles on company
Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, voted against the bill, saying the Legislature
was wrong in deciding that individual gun rights trump employers’ property
rights. “I’m just trying to be practical,” he said.
Helmke said a recent poll conducted by Republican and Democratic polling
firms in Indiana and four other states found those surveyed supported
keeping gun laws the way they are.
In Indiana gun-owning households, The Journal Gazette said, only 9 percent
wanted less strict gun laws; 42 percent said the laws should be stricter;
and 45 percent supported keeping the laws the same.