City of Indianapolis cannot ban guns at Circle of Lights celebration

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – IMPD and Downtown Indy Inc. have reversed themselves from an earlier announcement last week and now agree that guns cannot be banned from Monument Circle during this coming Friday night’s Circle of Lights celebration.

Around 100,000 people are expected to jam the heart of downtown the night after Thanksgiving for the annual lighting of the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument.

With an estimated 800,000 licensed handgun owners in the state of Indiana, chances are many of them were going to be carrying their concealed firearms to the tree lighting despite the now reversed rule.

IMPD and the celebration’s sponsors rolled back a prohibition on guns after Guy Relford, an attorney specializing in gun owners’ rights, advised the city of relevant state law that bans local governments, in most cases, from keeping firearms away from public places and events.

“The Preemption Statue says that local governments, with certain exceptions, simply cannot regulate firearms, including the carrying of firearms,” said Relford. “The State can tell you where you can and cannot carry a gun, the feds can tell you where you can and can’t but local governments can’t.”

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton found that out in the summer of 2016 when he determined the city could not halt the armed owners of a local gun range from participating in an Independence Day parade and police were powerless to stop a man from displaying a gun at a public swimming pool.

State lawmakers have the authority to ban guns from the Indiana Statehouse, cities can prohibit guns from courthouses and schools and private properties, such as shopping malls, can have rules against firearms on the premises.

County clerks cannot ban guns from polling places on Election Day but the owner of private property where the ballots are being cast can ask an armed voter to leave or ask police to cite the gun owner for trespassing.

The Indianapolis Colts can ban guns at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Pacers can prohibit firearms at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse because while both are properties owned by taxpayers and the Capitol Improvement Board, the sports teams as lease holders can establish and enforce their own weapons rules.

If Downtown Indy Inc. were to lease Monument Circle instead of borrow access to the streets for one night, it would then have the power to ban guns at the celebration.

“If there was some provision, as the city originally announced, that you cannot bring a gun here, who would that affect?” asked Relford. “Its gonna affect me because I’m a law abiding gun owner.

“Who’s it not going to affect?” he continued. “Is the gangbanger not going to carry a gun into the Circle of Lights Celebration because there’s some regulation that says they might get kicked out?

“Why would the city want to take my ability to defend myself and my family away when clearly that’s gonna have zero impact on bad guys who want to do me and my family harm?”

Relford said he would consider this year’s celebration no less safe than tree lighting ceremonies in the past, though there may be more guns on hand simply due to publicity of the city’s rollback of its announced ban policy.

IU Law Professor Jody Lynee Madiera said there are some restrictions on the constitutional right to be armed.

“I think that there is this idea that the Second Amendment is an absolutist text and that if you quote those words those are the most magical words that open up all the doors to whatever weapons you want and however you want to carry them,” she said, “and I simply think that’s not true because Supreme Court jurisprudence has repeatedly, along with federal and state jurisprudence, repeatedly said that reasonable restrictions on guns are lawful.”

While scrapping the ban on guns, IMPD and Downtown Indy Inc. reiterated that chairs, pop-up tents, coolers, bicycles and most animals are still prohibited from the celebration.

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