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Thursday, October 13, 2016 7:50 am

Allowing guns in parks proposed

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

An ordinance introduced during Tuesday’s Fort Wayne City Council meeting would remove language in the city code prohibiting residents from carrying firearms in city parks.

Introduced by Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, the measure would amend a section of the Fort Wayne city code related to the Parks and Recreation Department to remove firearms from a list of prohibited items that includes fireworks, firearms, BB guns, slingshots, pea shooters, blow guns and paintball guns.

As currently written, the ordinance violates state law regarding the regulation of firearms, Arp said.

"No person shall be allowed to carry firearms; to molest, hunt, harm, frighten, kill, trap, pursue, chase, tease, shoot or throw objects at or to set snares for any wildlife, animals, birds, reptiles and fish within the limits of any park or within 500 feet thereof except with written permission of the Department. Fireworks, firearms, ‘BB’ guns, slingshots, pea shooters, blow guns and paint ball guns are prohibited in all park areas unless permission has been obtained from the Department. No person is permitted to practice archery or use a bow and arrow or crossbow or other similar device in any park," city code Section 97.62 currently states. 

Through his proposal, Arp contends that state law prohibits local government units from regulating firearms. Arp said he believes the change, in addition to being in compliance with state law, will be good public policy.

"Statistically, it’s been shown that in areas where people can legally carry a handgun, rapes drop dramatically. Just the threat of somebody being able to defend themselves makes a big impact," Arp said. "I have two little daughters and when they grow up, I’m going to insist they learn how to handle a firearm to protect themselves as well."

Arp’s ordinance proposal contends that allowing the existing policy to stand would present a financial risk to the city, through payment of damages, plaintiff attorney fees and court costs. 

According to Indiana Code 35-46-11.1-2, local governments may not regulate firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories, or their ownership, possession, carrying, transportation, registration, transfer or storage. But state law does allow local governments to prohibit or restrict firearm possession at hospitals and in places such as the Allen County Courthouse or Citizens Square. 

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, said Tuesday he’ll be interested to hear the discussion about the proposed change.

"I would want to get guidance, not only from the Parks and Recreation Department, since it affects so many parks in the city, but also law enforcement officers to see exactly what they think about (the change)," Paddock said. 

Parks Director Al Moll declined to comment Tuesday but said he plans to look at Arp’s proposal and evaluate the potential impact the change would have on the city’s park system. 

Council could discuss and vote on the amendment as early as next Tuesday. 

dgong@jg.net