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EDITORIAL

Another setback for our home rule

Friday, April 18, 2014 - 12:01 am

Fear of getting sued grips Indianapolis.

Indiana’s unpredictable and unjustifiable approach to home rule has prompted the Indianapolis City-County Council to defeat a proposed ordinance for the worst reason possible: fear of being sued. Never mind what’s right and wrong, let’s just stay out of court!

The measure would have banned residents from “discharging weapons recreationally” within city limits, which would have allowed self-defense but prohibited things like hunting and target shooting. Such bans have been so common across the country that they’re not even controversial, which is a rarity for any issue involving the Second Amendment.

But there is a provision in the Indiana code, enacted in 2011, under which state law pre-empts all local restrictions. Cities and counties, for example, can’t pass ordinances keeping guns out of parks because that’s not a part of the state law.

In other areas, however, local governments are allowed to pass ordinances that are stricter than state law. That’s why Fort Wayne can, for example, ban smoking in private clubs even though the state anti-smoking statute has an exemption for them. That practice can result in confusion about what’s legal when multiple jurisdictions have contradictory laws covering the same thing. But it makes more sense that forbidding any local rules whatsoever.

The point isn’t whether it’s a good idea or a bad one for a city to prohibit recreational shooting within its limits. The point is that local officials, responding to the wishes and concerns of their constituents are in the best position to decide that for themselves.

For those whose Second Amendment sensibilities are offended by any gun rule, it’s worth remembering that the Bill of Rights was meant to be applied only to the federal government – it was a list of powers that Congress was not allowed to have. The Founders wisely distrusted central power and its inevitable abuses and wished to keep most authority local where it could be closely monitored.

In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s seen as a quaint notion these days. What power doesn’t go to Washington goes to Indianapolis, and we have less and less to say about our own lives.

A fowl mood in Goshen

When the chickens come home to roost in Goshen, they will now have a place to stay.

Last month, the City Council defeated an ordinance to allow chickens to be raised in the city over concerns they would be allowed to wander and that crowing roosters would disturb the peace. But this month it approved a revived version that allows up 5o 50 people to have six chickens – but no roosters – on their property if they get neighborhood approval.

So let’s hear it for live-and-let-live libertarianism at the local level, even if a few feathers get ruffled.