INDIANAPOLIS – Don’t be surprised if you see somebody with a handgun at your local polling place this November.
A 2011 state law that barred local governments from enforcing their own gun restrictions also covers many public buildings where people go to vote.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson says the law is clear: Unless the polling place falls under the few exemptions in the law, legal gun owners have the right to openly bear their arms while they vote. “That matter has been settled,” Lawson said.
But it’s not quite been put to rest.
Last month, a Zionsville attorney who’s built a law practice as the unofficial enforcer of the 2011 law, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a northern Indiana man who was turned away from his polling place in a fire station during the May primary election after he refused to take off his holstered handgun.
Guy Relford thinks his client was a victim of ignorance of the 2011 law and predicts similar incidents may occur with the November election. “I routinely get calls from people who say their local officials and local law enforcement don’t know or understand the law,” Relford said. “But ignorance is no defense.”
The law in question, known as Indiana’s firearms pre-emption law, prevents local political subdivisions from having their own firearms ordinances. When it went into effect in July 2011, it also did away with local laws that prevented legal gun owners from carrying their weapons into public places like libraries, parks, city halls and fire stations. The law exempts courthouses and schools, where firearms may still be banned.
State Sen. Jim Tomes, a Republican from Wadesville who authored the law in his freshman year as a legislator, said it was intended for people like Relford’s client: Clay Edinger, a retired Marine and Iraq War veteran who is working on his masters degree in theology and studying to become a military chaplain. When Edinger went to vote, with his holstered handgun in plain view, he had a copy of the law with him, but was still turned away.