Thursday, February 25, 2010

Constitution Schmonstitution: "Guns-In-Parks" Prop Tabled

Reports are in from Twitter (thanks Abdul) that the so-called "guns-in-parks" ordinance was tabled at the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting that took place at Garfield Park earlier tonight. For those who don't speak "council" language, it means it did not get a vote on the proposal itself. They just decided to stop discussion for tonight. It could be up for further discussion on future agendas, or it could be completely ignored. I'll update this post as needed if watching the recording on Channel 16 yields any new information.

As for the vote itself, it speaks volumes of how much the council actually cares about citizens' rights. Specifically, the Republican majority on the council, and Mayor Greg Ballard. Council president Ryan Vaughn took to the airwaves of WIBC (93.1 FM) and WXNT (1040 AM) complaining about how Coleman hadn't talked to other council representatives about it before proposing it. Mayor Greg Ballard echoes the stance of the anti-gun crowd in saying (via The Indianapolis Star):

"We want moms to feel safe in the park taking their kids," Ballard said. "People are happy with how (the policy) is."

Ryan Vaughn's complaint about how the proposal wasn't vetted before being introduced might have some merit if Coleman was still a Republican. But I have never heard of an actual rule or a general courtesy where other parties give a "heads up" on what legislation they'd like to propose. I don't see the point in doing so either. The time to vet legislation is in the legislative body itself, specifically, the committee that's assigned to do so. There, other representatives can amend the proposal and then vote on it. And as an added bonus, it's a completely open and public forum. I think it's a ludcrious suggestion to think Vaughn's caucus run their proposals by the Democrats and vice-versa, so why apply this standard only to the Libertarian?

Mayor Ballard's reasoning is disturbing to a much further extent. Francesca Jarosz of The Indianapolis Star wrote an article shortly after the proposal was introduced to the full council noting Mayor Ballard's gun control beliefs:


It has drawn resistance from gun violence opponents, who say allowing more guns in parks poses a safety risk.

Ballard stopped short of making that argument, but he said allowing guns in parks could make people feel less secure.

"We want moms to feel safe in the park taking their kids," Ballard said. "People are happy with how (the policy) is."


"The mayor spent 23 years in the Marine Corps defending the Constitution," said Robert Vane, Ballard's deputy chief of staff. "He has never proposed anything that would restrict or change current gun laws."

Ballard making the argument that mothers won't feel safe if citizens are allowed to carry their legal firearms into city parks is a very telling statement. At best, it's a fumble from someone who is relatively new to politics. At worst, it characterizes women as spineless and aren't able to deal with even seeing a gun (but yknow, us MEN can, because guns are MANLY).

As noted in Indiana's own Frequently Asked Questions on firearms, there are no restrictions to where a licensed handgun owner can carry his or her own handgun. Businesses may prohibit, but that's it. Local government also has the ability to prohibit, according to the FAQ, but I can't find any corresponding part of the IN State Code that allows that (remember, state law is silent on carrying handguns in public).

So handguns might be carried anywhere. Even concealed. Are these mothers Ballard is talking about afraid to walk into state parks (Governor Mitch Daniels repealed the state parks ban himself), national parks (President Barack Obama signed it into law as an amendment to a credit card reform bill), or any of the hundreds of other places firearms are allowed in Indiana?

Now, let's leave this school of thought that Ballard and the council are doing something that goes against the constitution, or using authority that isn't derived from the state (IE they don't have it at all). Let's think about public safety.

Park Rangers, which is a department of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, covers thousands of acres of park land across the entire city. Compare that to almost every other government building, which has metal detectors and armed security (sheriffs, IMPD, private security, etc...) in a relatively small space.

So, here's my challenge to the City-County Council, specifically the Republicans, since they have the majority. You refuse to let citizens exercise their right to self-defense by carrying a firearm. That's fine. I've got a life. I'm not going to take you to court. But being in a city park basically lets the criminals know that no one is armed, and more than likely no Park Ranger is going to be nearby. Come up with a comprehensive proposal to increase security in our parks. It could've been done for free, but now, put your money where your mouth is.

EDIT: The coverage Shabazz may be telling of how he REALLY feels of the right to bear arms. Shabazz initially reported that there were 12 at the meeting tonight with only two speaking publicly presenting a 50-50 split (here). Mike Jezierski of Hoosier Access corrected Shabazz, saying that 12-15 spoke publicly with 30-40 in the room (here). Shabazz was also hosting Cocktails and Conversation at Rick's Boatyard Cafe. Maybe he wasn't at the committee meeting. But still, how do you get two people speaking from 12?

If he wasn't, all the more reason to verify the facts rather than go on unreliable information. Channel 16 seems to already have had an airing or two of the committee meeting, and has a few going on tomorrow. I'll verify what I can then and throw in my two cents.

On the meeting itself, Jezierski wrote extensively over at Hoosier Access. He notes that Councilor Lincoln Plowman (who is on paid leave from his job at IMPD pending the completion of an internal investigation) said he supports the ordinance but was concerned it could violate state law that bans firearms on or near school property and voted to table it. Councilor Plowman, this is what the committee process is for. To add amendments to proposed legislation! Two Democrats and one Republican joined him in voting to table.

What's interesting is seeing who voted against tabling. Vernon Brown, a Democrat, supports the legislation. Monroe Gray voted against tabling, but it's no secret that he's against the proposal. Mike Speedy was the lone Republican voting against tabling.

Hopefully they're tabling it pending further discussion. Maybe watching the meeting tomorrow will reveal some details.

UPDATE: After reviewing the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting on Channel 16, there is one time near the end of the public comments (right before Sean Shepard speaks) where the camera pans to the crowd. I estimate that about 20 people were in the seats and 12 people speaking, with only two being against the proposed ordinance. Jezierski's slightly higher estimate could've come from people leaving from earlier in the meeting, since it isn't unusual for some members of the public to leave after having their time to speak. This should teach all who participate in reporting, traditional media and bloggers alike, to verify their facts before reporting them.

Over in some forum posts at, some were criticizing a few council members vote on tabling the proposal. Remember that tabling the ordinance does not express support (or lack of), but it means to end the discussion. When a proposal is tabled, it can only be bought back again by ANOTHER vote to open up discussion on it. This is where the current smoking ban languishes, and is likely where Coleman's proposal will too.

Lincoln Plowman (R), who is an IMPD officer on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation, expressed his support for the Second Amendment. He then bought up the ban on guns being carried in and around school grounds, which is a state law, and how parks near schools could come into conflict if this proposal passed.

So he proposed an amendment to fix these problems.

Ah, who am I kidding. He moved to table the ordinance, which is an underhanded way of killing it.

The following are the votes on tabling:

To table:
Lincoln Plowman (R-25th)
William Oliver (D-10th)
Janice McHenry (R-6th)
Susie Day (R-20th)

Continue discussion:
Vernon Brown (D-18th)
Monroe Gray (D-8th)
Mike Speedy (R-24th)

Monroe Gray's vote to continue discussion threw me off, since he expressed that he would never support the proposal in any way, shape, or form. Maybe he thinks it'd be wise to permanently kill it at a full council vote than let it languish in committee?

Vernon Brown said that he believes that gun owners with the proper permits should be able to carry in parks. He expressed concern that tabling would end the discussion and the bill would effectively die in committee without an actual vote. He then asked if Day, who is the chairman of the committee, plans on putting the proposal on a future agenda. Day's answer was vague at best, but I won't be surprised if it never shows up on an agenda again.

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