February 27, 2024

Local communities could not sue gun industry, even for illegal acts, under Senate-approved bill

Article origination IPB News
Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) said only the state of Indiana — via the attorney general — should be able to bring a civil lawsuit against those in the gun industry, not local governments. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) said only the state of Indiana — via the attorney general — should be able to bring a civil lawsuit against those in the gun industry, not local governments.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Local communities in Indiana won’t be allowed to sue the gun industry — even for illegal actions — under legislation approved by the Senate Tuesday.

HB 1235 is aimed at ending a lawsuit by the city of Gary against gun manufacturers and sellers that dates back to 1999.

Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis), the bill’s sponsor, said the issue is simple.

“It’s a 25-year-old situation,” Freeman said. “There’s other municipalities that could do this and I think only the state of Indiana should.

Under the bill, the Indiana attorney general is the only government authority that could bring lawsuits against the gun industry. Current Attorney General Todd Rokita has said he’ll never do so.

The attorney general's office disagrees with that interpretation of Rokita's comments, however. It said he does not support the Gary lawsuit, which the office describes as a public nuisance case "based upon lawful activity."

The AG's office said Rokita would not bring any case like that against the gun industry, but is not ruling all lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers.

Gary officials and attorneys involved in the lawsuit disagree with the characterization of their case. They argue the suit isn't about lawful activity, but about unlawful actions by gun makers and sellers.

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Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) pleaded with his colleagues not to take away local communities’ right to protect their citizens.

“We are choosing an industry over our people,” Taylor said.

The Senate passed the bill 33 to 15. It now heads back to the House, which can vote to send it on to the governor or take the bill to conference committee for further work.

This story has been updated.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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