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The Journal Gazette

October 18, 2016 10:14 AM

Verbatim: Statement by Councilman Geoff Paddock regarding ordinance to repeal firearms in public places

The following was released on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016 by Councilman Geoff Paddock: 

The Fort Wayne City Council should not take any action that would make our residents feel less safe in our public parks.  I appreciate Council Arp bringing this issue forward for debate.  However, many individuals believe we would be letting them down by considering this proposal, even though this 2011 state law allowing fire arms and other weapons into city parks supersedes the local ordinance and makes our law invalid.  The city has complied with the state law since it was enacted.

This issue merits further discussion with our State Legislative delegation.  It is not appropriate for the state to usurp its authority in this matter.  It is only logical that local governments in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Huntington Auburn, New Haven, and every other city and town should make their own decisions regarding public safety in parks and other public entities.  City Councils are close to the citizens they represent.  The Fort Wayne City Council meets every Tuesday.  Our constituents contact us on a variety of issues.  We are in the neighborhoods and at events on weekends.  Our constituents also come to council meetings to tell us what they think.  Local government is the government closest to the people.  Local government should decide local public safety issues, not the State Legislature in Indianapolis.

Many residents of the Fifth District have contacted me, and they are overwhelmingly opposed to lifting fire arm restrictions and easing regulations on other weapons that could be used in our public parks.  Unfortunately, state law now allows this, providing an individual carries a personal protection permit.  I am the Executive Director of Headwaters Park, a large open area which hosts pavilions, a splash pad, a festival center, and a winter ice skating rink in the center of Fort Wayne.  Patrons coming to Headwaters Park to exercise, attend festivals, participate in not for profit walks, attend weddings, and ice skate, and are not comfortable with fire arms and other weapons on the premises.  This is not good public policy. It does not provide for a safe haven. The state law is detrimental to the city’s right to pass legislation to protect its citizens.

Our award winning parks are safe, and my constituents do not want to see individuals roaming them with weapons.  Firearms in parks should only be in the possession of well trained law enforcement officers.  This is not an issue about gun rights.  This is an issue about public safety.

I will vote no on the ordinance offered to repeal city ordinance 97.62, which prohibits fire arms, fire works, and other potentially lethal weapons into our public spaces.  I also urge our State Legislators to revisit this issue in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.  I would request that local governments be given more home rule, not less, particularly when it comes to this important issue.

Geoff Paddock, Fifth District City Councilman