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Lawsuits test gun restrictions at polling places, local regulations

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Can you carry a gun to the ballot box? With a few narrow exceptions, the answer appears to be yes.

A lawsuit filed last month in St. Joseph Superior Court could clarify further whether a 2011 law that voids local firearm regulations would make efforts to keep guns out of voting precincts illegal.

Zionsville attorney Guy Relford filed a lawsuit on behalf of Clay Edinger against the St. Joseph County Election Board, commissioners, sheriff’s office and local township officials.

The suit alleges that when Edinger walked into a Warren Township fire station in North Liberty with a holstered handgun for the May 8 primary, his rights were violated when election officials and law enforcement officers took him out of the fire station that housed the polling place and told him he couldn’t vote if he carried the firearm. He insisted he had broken no law, but he was not allowed to vote.
 

guns06-15col.jpg Zionsville attorney Guy Relford provides firearm training at Eagle Creek gun range in Indianapolis to Vicki Roberson. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Relford, who also operates Tactical Firearms Training LLC and is a firearms instructor who’s built a reputation defending Second Amendment matters, said Indiana Code 35-47-11.1 put an end to nearly all local firearm regulations that exceed the scope of state law.

Edinger’s experience, he said, “is really the perfect example of what the Legislature had in mind when it enacted the pre-emption statute.”

“If local government (and) police officers can make up the rules as they go, no one can predict where it’s legal to carry a gun and where it’s not,” Relford said.
 

relford-guy-15col.jpg Relford has sued on behalf of a St. Joseph County man who was not allowed to vote in the May primary because he openly carried a holstered gun to the polls.. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Whether a licensed gun owner is permitted under the law to carry a firearm to the polls may hinge on where the precinct is located. If a polling place is in a building that houses courts or is in a school, for instance, the pre-emption law provides exceptions that would restrict firearms. A precinct on private property also may be subject to gun restrictions.

Dale Simmons, co-legal counsel for the Indiana Election Division, said he was made aware of the situation involving Edinger on that primary election day.

Simmons said the pre-emption statute seemed clear, but that statute didn’t specifically address polling places. Finding that no other statutes addressed the question, Simmons on primary election day contacted Indiana State Police General Counsel Lt. Mark Carnell.

In an email reply, Carnell advised Simmons, “the authority of local units to regulate firearms, including handguns in public buildings, was sharply restricted when IC 35-47-11.1 became law last year. Local units can still, under certain circumstances, bar firearms if the building contains a courtroom or if certain fairly burdensome procedures are followed,” such as in public buildings requiring metal detectors staffed by law enforcement officers.

“We’re free to engage in activities unless they’re prohibited,” Simmons said, while acknowledging that the sight of a voter carrying a gun might raise alarm. “Some people perceive these things differently based upon their sensitivities.”
 

tomes Tomes

Indiana Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Evansville, sponsored the pre-emption bill and said he sees no need to further address whether guns are permitted in a polling place. The bill provides a few exemptions where local units of government may forbid firearms, but he said adding further exemptions would muddy the water.

“The purpose of the law was to say no more are cities and towns going to write their own laws, and we’re going back to the uniformity of state law,” Tomes said.

“Our society has come to a point where so many people are afraid of anything that moves anymore, and their reaction is what we see here,” he said. “We are talking about citizens who have applied for these licenses and who have proven themselves to be proper citizens, and they’re not to be feared.”

Relford said Edinger, who served in Iraq as a Marine and now is in the U.S. Navy’s chaplain development program, gave no cause for alarm when poll workers and then law enforcement officers confronted him.

“He was very mild-mannered. He didn’t even raise his voice and there’s no contention that he did,” Relford said.

He said enforcement of existing laws that restrict guns from falling into the wrong hands makes more sense than enacting laws or trying to enforce unwritten policies that would penalize law-abiding citizens.

“There are three kinds of people who shouldn’t have guns: kids, criminals and crazy people,” Relford said. “What we don’t need is a patchwork of local regulation.”

James Groves of the South Bend firm Lee Groves & Zalas said he will be representing at least some of the defendants in the case. Groves said he had yet to file a response to the Edinger petition and said it was too soon to offer an analysis of how the case may be defended.

Fighting city hall

Edinger’s suit is the third that Relford has filed against units of government that he says are in violation of the pre-emption statute.

He sued Hammond after the city council defeated a council member’s proposal to remove local ordinances that didn’t comply with the law. The case is Samuel G. Dykstra and Michelle L. Bahus, et al. v. City of Hammond, 45D11-1108-PL-00086. A Lake Superior judge ruled for the city, and the suit is pending before the Court of Appeals.

Hammond City Attorney Kristina Kantar said the city was successful in winning summary judgment at the trial court level because it hadn’t infringed on anyone’s rights.

“The city’s position is that we never actually enforced any ordinance against the person laying claim,” Kantar said. The question of whether the city must remove the ordinances from its books is moot, she said, because the state law already does that.

“The city’s position is once the ordinance became void, we didn’t have to do anything,” she said. “It hasn’t come up, other than Mr. Relford.”

But Relford said as long as Hammond’s four local firearm ordinances stay on the books, the city’s failure to remove them gives legal standing to anyone to bring action against the city. “People are still subject to those (ordinances) because they simply live on” in the city code, Relford said.

Relford also sued Evansville on behalf of Benjamin Magenheimer. The lawsuit says Magenheimer was removed illegally from the city-owned Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden after a zoo employee saw him carrying a gun and called police. Magenheimer was taken from the zoo after police said he caused a scene.

Bryan Lee Ciyou, an attorney with Ciyou & Dixon P.C. in Indianapolis, is author of “Indiana Firearms Law Reference Manual” and said Indiana is one of 43 states where pre-emption laws govern firearm regulation.

He said the pre-emption law settled the question of whether a licensed owner may carry a gun to the polling place, unless it’s in a building such as a courthouse or school that is exempt.

“I don’t think there’s a legal question about it,” he said. “I think it’s a moral question.”

He said the suits also highlight how poorly local officials, including law enforcement, are educated about gun laws.

“I think the average person carrying openly into a polling station would do it because (the Second Amendment) is the reason they’re voting,” Ciyou said.•

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  • Police
    Rich, I used to live in Greenfield. Really nice place. Absolutely STUPID police!
  • Guns
    Get used to being harassed. Liberals under Obama are committed to ridding this country of any weapon. All for the "GREATER GOOD" so we can all be exactly equal! as slaves. You voted for him,
  • Law Enfocement Ignorance
    I am amazed how someone who deals with guns and gun laws can be so ignorant. The local police and authorities should be experts on the laws they are enforcing and have the correct authoritative resources to answer questions of law. It's embarrassing when a gun owner knows the laws better then the authorities.

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    1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

    2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

    3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

    4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

    5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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