Sunday, April 13, 2014

Expansion of Protection from Discharge of Weapons On Council Agenda Monday Night

Up for a vote at tomorrow night's City-County Council meeting will be Prop 6.  This proposal, introduced by Councillor Angela Mansfield yet again, would expand to all of Marion County, the prohibition on shooting off guns.  Mansfield added exceptions to the expansion for agriculture-zoned parcel of 10 acres or more, and for shooting ranges of various types.  It is already illegal to shoot off guns within the old City limits and within the excluded cities of Lawrence, Beech Grove and Speedway.

Curiously enough, it is also illegal outside the old City limits and this ordinance would actually carve out the exceptions noted above.  When the IMPD taxing district was expanded so the City could pull in more tax revenue from the outlying Townships, the ban on shooting off guns was also expanded.  Public Safety Director Troy Riggs unilaterally gave everyone outside the old City limits a pass on obeying the law.  I wonder how he gets such authority to decide which ordinances he will enforce and where.

It is well past time that this Ordinance applies to all of us equally.

It is no less startling and threatening to hear gunfire in the perimeter outside old Indy than it is to hear it inside.  Just because the probability of criminal intent is less, does not make it safer or of less concern for nearby residents.

Shooting in one's own backyard, with or with a target, with or without safety training, with or without the intent to intimidate ones neighbors, still can alarm, frighten, and cause concern to those neighbors.  I know from personal experience that when you hear gunfire you cannot assume it is of benign intent.  You cannot assume that errant aim will not harm you or your loved ones.

Hunters pursuing their hobby, sometimes illegally on others' property, don't always know the many directions that prey may take that also leads in a straight line to a house or playground. 

Bullets can travel 1 to 5 miles, depending upon the gun and other variables.  This substantial radius increases the need for Prop 6 to pass.

It is not enough that few people have been seriously injured by hunters and backyard shooters to keep Prop 6 from passing.  Everyone should have the right to enjoy their own property.  When the threat of guns going off keep you and your children from enjoying your own backyard, then the things have gone too far and need to be righted.  

At the Rule Committee meeting where Prop 6 was sent to the full Council by a vote of 4-2, Councillor Bob Lutz said that he generally supported Mansfield's efforts, but would vote against it lest someone take the issue to court based on his interpretation of the wording of a 2011 Indiana law keeping local government from passing any local laws impeding the right to own guns.  Council Attorney, Fred Biesecker, noted that the word 'discharge' of a weapon was deliberately removed from the Indiana law before its passage.  Noone has taken the ban on shooting off guns within the old City limits to Court, and the City has not removed that ban for fear of losing a potential lawsuit in that geography.  It seems like a straw dog to worry about possible legal challenge to a simple expansion of an existing law.

Councillor Christine Scales notes that some Councillors who advocate a 50 foot safety free zone to protect downtown-goers from panhandlers, apparently do not find protecting citizens from stray bullets of any concern.  Scales makes an excellent point.

Loud music from a neighbor can get the police to show up and restore the peace.  Firing off a gun, with its attendant alarm as well as its loud retort, should also elicit action by the police, not just a 'call us when someone is hurt' attitude.  Given Riggs' curious position regarding the enforcement of an existing ordinance, Prop 6 needs to pass so all of us can get the same protections.

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