Appeals court upholds ruling Hammond gun ordinances

2013-03-16T21:00:00Z 2013-03-16T23:43:04Z Appeals court upholds ruling Hammond gun ordinancesChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a ruling Friday that two area residents are not adversely impacted by city gun restrictions now voided by state law.

Samuel Dykstra, who lives in Highland and attends college in Hammond, and Michelle Bahus, of Hammond, had sued the city, alleging their rights were violated because gun regulations are still present in city code.

A Carmel-based attorney representing the residents said he intends to request the Indiana Supreme Court take on the case.

“We feel like the city of Hammond, and Mayor (Thomas) McDermott specifically, intentionally want to leave the ordinances on the books, so they influence people's behavior,” said Guy Relford, the residents' attorney.

The appeals court found that, regardless of whether the ordinances were still in code, the restrictions were voided by a 2011 state law that essentially bars local governments from regulating firearms except in courtrooms.

The ordinances had restricted guns from city buildings or at any city board or commission meeting.

The appeals court stated the city had not adopted or enforced an ordinance in violation of the state law since it took effect in July 2011. The law was meant to curb future gun restrictions or future enforcement of ordinances in place prior to the state law taking effect, the ruling states.

The appeals court ruling sides with the decision of Lake Superior Court Judge Jeffery Dywan, who rejected the lawsuit because state law had voided the local ordinances.

Relford maintained Friday that the city should repeal the ordinances to avoid confusion.

In 2011, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. issued an executive order directing the Hammond Police Department and city employees not to enforce an ordinance that banned guns in city buildings.

The order came after the Hammond City Council voted down an ordinance to bring city code into compliance with the new state law. At the time, the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns had recommended local governments repeal gun regulations on their books.

McDermott said appealing the city's ordinances would have been a bad move, especially in light of recent gun violence in the nation. He said the appeals court ruling reaffirms his actions and those of the City Council.

“I'm proud of the way we reacted,” McDermott said. “Basically the (National Rifle Association) through Guy Relford is trying to bully the city of Hammond, and I won't stand for it. Make no mistake about it. The NRA is lock, stock and barrel behind this lawsuit.”

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