Indiana Attorney General says city's new gun ordinances are unconstitutional

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Earlier this week the Indianapolis City Council adopted several new local gun control ordinances that fly in the face of the state’s firearm preemption law; imposing a ban on so-called assault weapons, requiring lawful gun owners to possess a concealed carry license before they can legally carry in self-defense, and bar adults under the age of 21 from purchasing a gun. Even Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett concedes that the ordinances are unenforceable until or unless state lawmakers repeal the preemption law, and now Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has confirmed that the new measures don’t have a legal leg to stand on.


Rokita’s Memorandum of Legal Guidance was in response to questions raised by Senator Aaron Freeman, a former city county councilman who represented Franklin Township.

”We should not be in the business of passing ordinances that are never gonna see the light of day and are not lawful,” said Freeman. “Not lawful under state law and violate the Indiana Constitution and the City County Council on Monday passed an ordinance that does both.”

… In the conclusion of his opinion, Rokita took a political swipe at Hogsett and the Council.

“Simply put, Proposal 156 is a meaningless and futile gesture put forth by the Indianapolis City-County Council in an effort to distract the public from the realization that the Council is taking no substantive action to reduce the violence plaguing Indianapolis and Marion County,” the opinion read.

Indiana University Law Professor Jennifer Drobac said if Freeman and Rokita are serious about their opposition to the ordinance, they should file a lawsuit.

”What I want to avoid is when our lawmakers become politicians to the point that they are no longer relying on the law but are relying on personal opinions, party politics and have gotten away from the law and are beginning to infringe on individual liberty,” she said.

A lawsuit sounds great, but I’m not sure that the issue is going to be ripe unless the city tries to enforce any of the newly-passed restrictions. We just saw a federal judge in Connecticut toss out a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on concealed carry in state parks on the grounds that the 105-year-old law has apparently never been enforced, and that same rationale could be applied to any challenge to Indy’s new ordinances, especially with Hogsett admitting that the new ordinances are more aspirational than enforceable.


As Rokita says, these ordinances are ultimately a meaningless and futile gesture on the part of the Indianapolis City Council and Hogsett himself. The most pressing public safety concern in the city at the moment is the historic shortfall in the number of uniformed officers on the street, and while Hogsett claims that he’s increased officer pay and added more than 700 officers since taking office, that doesn’t account for the even larger number of officers who’ve left the force over the same time. In 2017, the IMPD had 1,676 officers. Today that number is 1,528, though the department is budgeted to have 1,843 law enforcement personnel.

Sadly, when it comes to a change in direction, Indianapolis voters may not have much of a choice. As Tom Knighton details in an upcoming post, the Republican running to replace Hogsett as mayor in this fall’s elections is fully on board with the new and unconstitutional gun control ordinances as well as repealing the state’s firearm preemption law. Second Amendment advocates and those who don’t believe that cracking down on lawful gun owners is the best way to address violent crime are going to be hard pressed to find a candidate who supports their views on Election Day, while the city’s carjackers, armed robbers, and gang members can take heart that both candidates would rather criminalize law abiding gun owners than vigorously go after their own lawbreaking.


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