City-County Council proposal looking to ban assault weapons dies in committee

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A proposal urging the Indiana General Assembly to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in the state failed to make it out of a City-County Council committee Wednesday.

State law prohibits city councils from passing their own gun ordinances, so they must go through the assembly.

"We're trying to get publicity, trying to get some traction about the issue affecting our community, including the community up in Noblesville" Councilman William "Duke" Oliver said.

Councilman William “Duke” Oliver was the sponsor of the resolution, Proposal 112, introduced earlier this year in the wake of gun violence in Indianapolis.

Amendments introduced by Councilman Zach Adamson were approved Wednesday before the proposal's ultimate failure. The amendments included expanding language to include Congress, requiring universal background checks to transfer any firearm and addressed school walk outs and shootings, including that of Noblesville West Middle School.

"The City-County Council stands with the students of Noblesville West Middle School, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Santa Fe High School, and other students from across the nation, including those right here in Indianapolis, in demanding effective and comprehensive action from the state and federal governments to protect schoolchildren," part of the amended proposal stated.

Arguments centered around the term "assault weapon," the design of the weapons, the responsibility of parents in securing guns and background checks.

"I was very happy that the vote did not pass. I believe that owning a weapon, owning guns is a right not a privilege. Driving a car is a privilege, owning a gun is a constitutional right,. If you take that right away then where do we stop?" resident and veteran Mike Comfort said.

"I was disappointed. I appreciate the council woman's comments that we should do this or that or the other, but we've been doing that. We've had multiple marches across the country, right. We've called, we've written, we've begged, we've pleaded and we get nothing in response. So kids keep dying, people keep dying" resident and veteran Chris Smallridge said.

The proposal failed in a 3-2 vote.

"I believe in circumstances where we have seen a rash or a flourish of assault weapon homicides, mass homicides, then it's time to start looking at maybe it is the weapon, maybe it is the gun itself. I realize that there's a bumper sticker saying that they like to bring out in these situations that people kill people, guns don't kill people. But a person without a gun is just a guy in a room going bang, bang, bang," Adamson said.

"I can't get behind something where we don't know exactly what an assault weapon is. Is it a tragedy that what's happening in the schools? Absolutely. Is it something that maybe needs to be looked at a little more? Absolutely. Is creating more regulation on it going to help us dismiss the problem altogether? No," Councilor Brian Mowery, who voted against the proposal said.

The National Rifle Association, who is holding its annual conference in Indianapolis next year, was publicly against the proposal.

“This resolution attempts to brand these firearms as ‘assault weapons’ to drum up unnecessary fear of their ownership,” said the NRA in a statement. “In reality, these firearms are only being defined by aesthetic features that in no way affect the functionality of the firearm.”

Other councilors expressed concern about the use of council time.

"Reach out to your state senator, your state representative as I have and tell them I do not want to see any laws that abridge the rights of the second amendment. I just wish Councilor Oliver would have done the same thing rather than waste council time with tonight’s meeting," Council Minority Leader Michael McQuillen said before the committee meeting.

"We want the people in the statehouse to understand we're talking about this and we want them to talk about it. How many more kids are going to die between now and January when the session starts? That's the real question." Councilman Frank Mascari, who voted for the proposal, said.

Councilors supporting the proposal say they're not giving up.

"What we won't do is continue to sit by and do nothing and that's what we're not going to do," Adamson said.

Adamson said they still may pursue a full council vote on the proposal. For that to happen, the majority of the council would have to vote to approve bringing the proposal to the floor.