INDIANAPOLIS | The Republican-controlled Indiana Senate ignored pleas for local control from three Lake County lawmakers and voted 28-21 on Tuesday to prohibit all municipal gun buy-back programs statewide.
Senate Bill 229, which now goes to the House, bars local governments or their police departments from holding gun buy-back events. It also requires police departments to auction or sell nearly all guns they seize or obtain, including those used in crimes.
State Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, the sponsor of the proposal, said it doesn't make sense for police to destroy guns obtained through buy-back programs or other means when most guns have value that could be put to better use.
His measure permits proceeds from gun sales be spent by police to buy guns, ammunition or bulletproof vests. Current law requires those funds be used for training.
"I'm not trying to micromanage local government here," Tomes said. "But I don't know why we would tell the citizens of any town, 'We're going to waste your money whether you like it or not.' "
State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said officials running the Gary gun buy-back program, which offers store gift cards in exchange for guns with no questions asked, sees more value in getting guns permanently off the street than in recirculating them.
"This bill takes away local control, and if a community wishes to use this as an opportunity to start a discussion about firearms in their particular community, they ought to be able to do that," Rogers said. "I'm appalled that you would use something like a 'best business practice' to try to really cover up what's being done here -- it's the old proverbial lipstick on a pig."
State Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, who supported the proposal in the Senate Judiciary Committee because it could bring more money to cash-strapped police departments, said he now agrees it's better to eliminate excess guns in a community.
"In all practicalities this would not be in the best interest of cities, towns and municipalities and their respective police departments, particularly those ones who have gun problems," he said.
State Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, said no one is under any illusions about what happens when a city holds a gun buy-back event.
"A person who gives a gun away to a buy-back program, he knows it's going to be destroyed and that's what he wants. Why do we deny him the right to do this?" Mrvan asked. "It's like we're asking to give a firearm immortal life here."