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Greenwood: You can carry a gun but don’t throw stones

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Greenwood is shooting down a widely ignored rule about packing pistols that most likely weren’t ever aware of.

City residents technically have not been allowed to carry concealed guns in Greenwood for the Past four decades, but the city is lifting a ban that few knew even existed.

The city’s scrapping a regulation that says people can’t carry around pistols, knives, razors, slingshots or brass knuckles within city limits. The 44-year-old city rule goes against state law and the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, city attorney Krista Taggart said.

When cities ban guns, the decision usually results in controversy, debate, lawsuits and years of appeals. But none of that ever happened in Greenwood because few people were even aware of a ban on concealed guns dating back to 1968, city council president Bruce Armstrong said. City officials aren’t sure why the rule was ever adopted in the first place.

Armstrong said the city has to occasionally purge old regulations, at least when it’s noticed that they’re outdated or wrong. Greenwood, for instance, recently scrapped a requirement for dog tags, since the rule had become widely ignored in a time when many pet owners have their dogs microchipped.

Police didn’t enforce the gun ban that would have meant a fine for anyone caught violating it, Greenwood Police Chief John Laut said. Officers have checked whether residents have the proper gun licenses as required under state law and treated it as a criminal misdemeanor if they didn’t.

“Commonly officers will look at the state statute,” he said. “There’s no reason to even cloud the issue with city ordinance.”

The Greenwood City Council is considering a proposal that would lift the restriction on carrying guns, slingshots and other concealed weapons and also get rid of a city rule that lets people shoot pigeons if they first get a police permit.

However, the proposed rules would prohibit actually firing the guns within the city if you’re not at a shooting range, or for actions allowed under state law of defending yourself, other people or property. Greenwood also plans to ban firing slingshots, pellet guns and arrows, and even throwing rocks in the playground or other public places.

Greenwood decided to update the gun rules after Taggart was looking into whether a recently annexed resident could keep a gun range on his isolated rural property.

She found the ban buried in the city rules, which regulate matters such as building permits. Greenwood has hundreds of pages on a broad range of regulations. For example, rules restrict how fast trains can travel through city limits and tell people they can’t put signs on trees.

Taggart said she quickly realized that Greenwood lacked the authority to tell people they couldn’t carry concealed guns.

“That city code is not allowed under current state law and the Second Amendment,” she said. “Under Indiana law and the Constitution, we simply cannot regulate ammunition and the firearms. That’s the exclusive realm of the state, and we rewrote the provision of the law in accordance with state law and the U.S. Constitution.”

City also decided to update the city’s other gun rule, about how you can shoot pigeons or other nuisance birds if you first get the blessing of Greenwood police.

Laut said he heard that people once fired at pigeons in Old Town, but few people have requested to shoot at nuisance birds in recent years.

Residents can scare off birds more safely, such as by using firecrackers or air horns to scare them away, Armstrong said.

“There’s an obvious danger in crowded areas,” he said. “There’s a chance you are going to miss the bird and we don’t want bullets flying through the area. I know what can potentially go wrong, because my uncle once had a bullet come through his apartment wall. We’re trying to keep from having issues.”

The proposed rule bans shooting within city limits except on ranges, and when allowed by state law, such as to protect people and property. That restriction extends to slingshots, pellet guns and arrows.

Under the proposed restriction, you wouldn’t even be allowed to throw a stone into any street, sidewalk, alley, park, playground, building or other public place.

The proposed changes come up for approval at the city council meeting Wednesday.

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