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Good news for Indiana gun owners?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Night Guy, Feb 12, 2004.

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  1. Night Guy

    Night Guy Member

    Dec 24, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN

    113th General Assembly
    Bill targets suits against gun owners
    Passage would eliminate most civil liability cases

    By Michele McNeil Solida
    February 12, 2004

    Indiana lawmakers want to grant gun owners almost complete protection from lawsuits -- an effort that has alarmed national safety groups and local advocates who say Hoosiers should be held responsible if they don't take reasonable steps to safeguard their weapons.

    House Bill 1349, which is expected to be considered today in a Senate committee, would give Indiana the most sweeping gun immunity law in the country, according to the Washington-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

    That doesn't bother Sen. Robert Meeks.

    "Great. We need to be on the cutting edge," said Meeks, R-LaGrange, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate. He said gun owners -- who have taken out more than 300,000 permits in Indiana -- are responsible people and deserve the legislative protection because they already take care of their weapons.

    The proposal, which passed the House overwhelmingly, wouldn't affect state laws involving criminal prosecution. It would, however, effectively eliminate most lawsuits involving guns.

    This legislation seeks to undo an April 2003 Indiana Supreme Court decision in which the five justices unanimously said gun owners must safely store their firearms or could be held liable for failing to do so.

    Under HB 1349, only gun owners who give their gun to someone else -- and know that the person is going to commit a crime with it -- can be held liable.

    "To say that anyone who irresponsibly handles a gun is not liable -- we've never seen that before," said Daniel Vice, an attorney with the Brady Center. "The bill says to feel free to leave your unlocked and loaded gun out on the table when the kids are over because you won't be liable."

    In addition to providing broad immunity to gun owners, the legislation could help the gun industry fight a pending legal challenge.

    Meeks plans to ask the Senate Criminal, Civil and Public Policy Committee to add a proposal that would halt the city of Gary's lawsuit against gun manufacturers and dealers.

    This would undo another Indiana Supreme Court ruling from December. Then, the court unanimously gave the go-ahead so Gary could sue gun dealers and distributors over claims that they sold handguns they knew would end up in the hands of criminals.

    After the city filed its lawsuit in 1999, the General Assembly voted in 2000 to ban lawsuits by other municipalities in the state. Meeks wants to make that ban retroactive and stop the Gary lawsuit.

    The gun proposals are tucked into legislation that seeks to cut down on lawsuits by prison inmates. The broad civil immunity proposal was inserted into that legislation during a late-night session of the House last week, and the bill passed that chamber 77-4.

    "If you own a gun and someone comes in and takes it without your knowledge, then you should have immunity from civil lawsuits," said Rep. Michael Murphy, R-Indianapolis, the sponsor of the gun immunity proposal in the House.

    He said the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds in April in ruling that gun owners need to take steps to safeguard their guns or be held liable.

    Locking the doors to your house should be good enough -- but it's not anymore, Murphy said.

    Don Heckdisagrees. His son Eryk, an Allen County sheriff's deputy, was killed in 1997 by Timothy Stoffer, a convicted felon. The Indiana Supreme Court ruling lawmakers are trying to undo came in Heck's lawsuit.

    Stoffer took the gun from his parents. Heck sued on behalf of his son, arguing that Stoffer's parents knew their son was fleeing police and should have safeguarded their gun. The gun was kept in an armchair in a bedroom, according to court documents.

    "There should be no excuses. I have a gun and I keep it locked up," Heck said. "You don't leave it lying out in your living room."

    In their decision from that case, the Supreme Court justices acknowledged the right to carry a gun but said that must be balanced with the duty to keep it safe.

    And states should have policies to make gun owners liable if they're reckless with their guns, argues Heather McCabe, executive director of the Indiana Partnership to Prevent Firearm Violence.

    She said doing otherwise sends the wrong signal: "You want to send a message that you need to be responsible with your gun."

    Call Star reporter Michele McNeil Solida at (317) 444-2771.


    It all sounds promising, but I have to admit this is the first I've heard of any of this. It seems I should crawl out from under my rock more often.

    Any more knowledgeable people than I want to give me their input? Am I missing something? Does this have a snowballs chance in hell?
  2. El Tejon

    El Tejon Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Lafayette, Indiana-the Ned Flanders neighbor to Il
    Mmmm, that's not what the Indiana Supreme Court said. However, this is a good bill!

    Write your letters. No, do not e-mail. Write a &^^%%#@ letter and use a stamp.:)
  3. emc

    emc Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Central Indiana
    Message received, El-T! Consider it done!

    Now, how about the REST of you Indiana residents?
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