Cities may not restrict gun sales during pandemic, AG Hill says

Indiana localities may not restrict firearms sales during the coronavirus emergency, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill determined in an official opinion issued Thursday. Cities and towns also may not order licensed gun dealers to close under emergency orders issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Hill issued the order in response to a request from Republican Indiana state senators Jim Buck, Aaron Freeman and Jim Tomes regarding whether cities and towns had such powers under an official emergency declaration.

“No; under the Indiana Code, a city, county, or other political subdivision is prohibited from restricting the sale of firearms during an emergency declaration,” the opinion signed by Hill says.

Holcomb last month issued a series of emergency orders related to the coronavirus pandemic, most recently a stay-at-home order issued March 23 that remains in effect statewide. The order exempts workers in services and professions deemed essential.

Hill pointed to a second list of essential services released by the Department of Homeland Security on March 28 that exempted, among others, “workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges.” Hill noted such operations were retroactively and prospectively included in Holcomb’s order.

“Despite such orders and determinations by federal and state government, some Indiana localities are reportedly labeling firearm retailers as nonessential by policy and requiring them to close during this public health emergency,” the opinion says.

Despite the home rule provisions under state law that give cities, towns and counties some regulatory powers, localities may not regulate firearms transactions under state law.

“Even in times of declared emergency,” the opinion says, “all political subdivisions are prohibited from engaging in regulation of firearms under Ind. Code § 10-14-3-12.

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