The Second Amendment protects gun ownership. In practice, it’s a little more complicated. Guns & Ammo ranks Indiana as the 24th-friendliest state for gun owners, and, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, we’re also the 23rd-safest.
Here is where some of our more noteworthy state and local regulations fall on the pro-control–to–pro-gun spectrum.
• One of Indiana’s stricter gun policies is the Jake Laird Law, which allows officers to seize or withhold firearms from any person they suspect is dangerous or mentally unstable, even if the person hasn’t committed a crime. The General Assembly passed it after Kenneth Anderson, who had been in emergency psychiatric detention, went on an armed rampage on Indy’s near-south side in 2004, killing Laird and wounding
four other policemen.
• Handing a defeat to pro–Second Amendment advocates, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the Laird Law in 2013, after police used it to seize more than two dozen weapons from Robert Redington of Indianapolis. Redington had told a parking-enforcement officer that he found a corpse, once met missing IU student Lauren Spierer, and that “she would come back” and he would “see her either through spirit or her physical body.
• Indiana law requires court officials to submit names of the mentally ill to a federal database for use in firearm background checks, making it one of many states that require or authorize such reporting. (In practice, Indiana is one of the worst at actually doing so, according to Mayors Against Gun Violence.)
• An ordinance prohibiting the discharge of firearms within the pre-Unigov city limits of Indianapolis (roughly the IPS school-district boundaries), except in self-defense, has been on the books since 1975—possibly making target practice, hunting, and celebratory barrages punishable by fine.
• Short-barreled (or “sawed-off”) shotguns are illegal in Indiana, except for cops carrying out official duties—the weapons have legitimate tactical applications—and authorized dealers. It is a felony to use or possess working machine guns under Indiana law, but there are exceptions for people complying with the federal National Firearms Act, on-duty members of the military or law enforcement, and, oddly, persons lawfully engaged in the display, testing, or use of fireworks.
• Training is a prerequisite for purchasing a handgun in eight states, but not Indiana, which does require retailers to run background checks meant to prevent any “serious violent felon,” a “dangerous or mentally ill person,” and juveniles from buying guns. Indiana requires no state permit for the possession of a handgun, rifle, or shotgun, but does to carry a handgun.
• Indiana is one of 22 states where public colleges and universities can decide whether to ban or allow concealed-carry weapons on their own campuses. A bill introduced in the General Assembly in 2012 and 2013 would have secured students’ right to carry guns at the institutions, but the measures died in committee. It’s likely a similar bill will be filed again.
• In 2007, Indy’s City-County Council voted down Proposal 174, which would have expanded the restriction on using recreational firearms to all of Marion County beyond the old city limits and would have prohibited shooting ranges within the old city limits.
• Indiana is one of 41 states that do not require background checks in private firearms sales. Numerous firearms involved in Chicago crimes have been traced to the Hoosier State, in part because Illinois requires background checks at gun shows and Indiana does not.
• Forty-three states including Indiana have what the NRA calls a “Range Protection” law, meaning that a person “is not liable in any civil or criminal matter relating to noise or noise pollution that results from the normal operation or use of [a] shooting range.”
• Local governments in Indiana are barred from regulating the ownership, possession, sale, transfer, or transportation of firearms or ammunition and from passing any gun laws that preempt those
of the state. Neighboring states such as Illinois have no such restrictions.
• Unlike other gun-friendly states such as Texas, Indiana has no laws forbidding firearms in a place of worship, an establishment that serves alcohol, or an entertainment venue.
• As of last July, Public Law 157 makes it legal to have a gun on K–12 school property, if locked in a vehicle and out of plain sight. The law also applies to private and charter schools. Indiana is one of at least 19 states that allow guns on school grounds.
• Indiana’s version of the stand-your-ground law is known as the Castle Doctrine. Individuals can use deadly force with “no duty to retreat,” as long as they are trying to prevent or terminate an attack on their home or property. Indiana was the first state to specify that the measure applied even to property owners trying to prevent “unlawful intrusion” by a “public servant,” which raised concerns in the law-enforcement community.
Indianapolis is coming off one of its deadliest years ever. Under the Gun, from our February 2015 issue, offers a grim look at the violence killing our city.