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Indy gun ordinance could face major legal challenges

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A firearm lawyer on Monday said a proposed gun ordinance could run afoul of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

The City-County Council on Monday night will introduce an ordinance that would ban any new sales of military-style rifles in the city, prohibit permitless carry, and raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21.

A provision in the ordinance would put it into effect only if state lawmakers repeal Indiana’s preemption law, which specifically prohibits cities from enacting such bans.

Mayor Joe Hogsett told News 8 he’s trying to show state lawmakers what city leaders want the legislature to allow them to do. He says Indianapolis’ population density means it faces crime problems other parts of the state lack.

“We think that getting these ordinances in place puts us in a good position to ask the General Assembly to either exempt or eliminate preemption,” he said. “Our message ought to be heard.”

The prospects for a repeal of the preemption law are dim at best. The General Assembly currently has Republican supermajorities in both chambers. Those supermajorities pushed through a permitless concealed carry law last year.

Marc Halata, a defense lawyer who specializes in firearm cases, says he’s not aware of any effort to repeal the law.

“Judging by the fact that (the ordinance) probably has no actual legal teeth to it unless the state repeals the 2011 Indiana Firearms Preemption Act, I would say that this is more of a political statement,” he said. “Maybe, you know, pandering to (Hogsett’s) constituency.”

Halata says that even if the preemption law was repealed, current case law could block it. He pointed to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling last year in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case, in which the court held New York’s requirement that a concealed-carry permit applicant shows proper cause for applying for one was unconstitutional.

Halata says similar logic could be brought to bear on any municipality that tried to enact stricter gun laws.

Council Minority Leader Brian Mowery in a statement calls Hogsett’s proposal a political stunt.

“These measures, which are ‘enforceable only upon the removal or repeal of state or federal law’ represents another iteration of unserious policy proposals from the 25th floor,” he said. “City leadership should focus on addressing the root causes of crime in Marion County.”

Hogsett said he isn’t asking that the preemption be lifted for every other city in Indiana.

“We hold out hope that the General Assembly and those legislators from outside the city recognize and appreciate the unique challenge Indianapolis has,” he said.

The ordinance could get a committee hearing as early as this Friday. Officials with the mayor’s office said they plan for the council to bring it up for a final vote at its July meeting.