Like reasonable laws.
Recently, Indianapolis City-County Councilor Kip Tew sponsored an ordinance that would require people to file a report if a gun they owned was lost or stolen.
Laws requiring gun owners to report loss or theft of a weapon help police in several ways: they deter gun trafficking and discourage straw purchasing; they facilitate the return of the guns, if found, to their lawful owners; and they help police disarm people who aren’t legally eligible to possess firearms.
As an officer friend pointed out recently, timely reporting of gun thefts and losses allows police to trace guns more effectively, and makes the successful prosecution of users of stolen guns more likely.
A very small step, granted, but a step in the right direction.
Currently, however, there aren’t enough votes to pass the measure. Not because council members are opposed to it, but because several of them worry that it might violate a relatively recent provision of the Indiana Code–a provision so ridiculous I couldn’t believe it was real.
Here are the relevant parts of Indiana Code 35-47-11.1 – 7.
Except as provided in section 4 of this chapter, a political subdivision may not regulate:
(1) firearms, ammunition, and firearm accessories;
(2) the ownership, possession, carrying, transportation, registration, transfer, and storage of firearms, ammunition, and firearm accessories; and
(3) commerce in and taxation of firearms, firearm ammunition, and firearm accessories.
Anyone “adversely affected” by such an action is authorized to sue for damages.
This is yet another example of the legislature telling local governments what they can and cannot do (my Home Rule complaint). And in this case, what our local folks can’t do is anything that even smells of gun regulation.
But the rest of this abomination is even worse:
A person is “adversely affected” for purposes of section 5 of this chapter if either of the following applies:
(2) The person is a membership organization that:
(A) includes two (2) or more individuals described in subdivision (1); and
(B) is dedicated in whole or in part to protecting the rights of persons who possess, own, or use firearms for competitive, sporting, defensive, or other lawful purposes.
Sec. 7. A prevailing plaintiff in an action under section 5 of this chapter is entitled to recover from the political subdivision the following:
(1) The greater of the following:
(A) Actual damages, including consequential damages.
(B) Liquidated damages of three (3) times the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.
(2) Court costs (including fees). (3) Reasonable attorney’s fees.
Short version: if Indianapolis tries to protect its citizens by controlling guns or ammunition in any way whatever, the “membership organization” (i.e. the NRA) can sue the city and recover attorney’s fees and punitive (“liquidated”) damages from our tax dollars.
Think about that.
I can’t imagine what “damages” the NRA would suffer from the passage of an innocuous and helpful measure like reporting stolen guns. (For that matter, putting on my lawyer hat, I don’t think that “theft” comes within the definition of “ownership, possession, carrying, transportation, registration, transfer, and storage,” but I do understand council members’ concern that it might.)
If you ever want an example of the way a well-heeled lobby overrides the will–and the welfare–of mere citizens, this one’s a doozy.