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March 18, 2013

Indiana ruling upholds decision to reject gun suit

HAMMOND, Ind. — The losing attorney in a case over Hammond gun-control ordinances vowed to take the matter to the Indiana Supreme Court after a state appeals court upheld a ruling that two area residents weren't adversely impacted by the restrictions because they're moot under Indiana law.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that regardless of whether the ordinances are still on the books, they are voided by a 2011 state law that essentially bars local governments from regulating firearms except in courtrooms.

The attorney for two people who had sued over the ordinances, Guy Relford of Carmel, told The Times of Munster that the city should repeal them to avoid confusion.

"We feel like the city of Hammond, and Mayor (Thomas) McDermott (Jr.) specifically, intentionally want to leave the ordinances on the books, so they influence people's behavior," Relford said.

Relford represents Samuel Dykstra, who lives in Highland and attends college in Hammond, and Michelle Bahus, of Hammond. The two alleged their rights were violated because the gun regulations are still in the city code.

The ordinances had restricted guns from city buildings or at any city board or commission meeting.

The appeals court stated the city h ad not adopted or enforced an ordinance in violation of the state law since it took effect in July 2011. The law was meant to curb future gun restrictions or enforcement of ordinances in place prior to the state law taking effect, the ruling states.

The appeals court ruling upheld the decision of Lake Superior Court Judge Jeffery Dywan to reject the lawsuit.

McDermott in 2011 issued an executive order directing the Hammond Police Department and city employees not to enforce an ordinance that banned guns in city buildings. The order came after the Hammond City Council voted down an ordinance to bring city code into compliance with the new state law. At the time, the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns had recommended local governments repeal gun regulations on their books.

McDermott said the appeals court ruling reaffirms his actions and those of the City Council.

"I'm proud of the way we reacted," McDermott said. "Basically the (National Rifle Association) through Guy Relford is trying to bully the city of Hammond, and I won't stand for it. Make no mistake about it. The NRA is lock, stock and barrel behind this lawsuit."

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