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April 10, 2014

Jeffersonville lifts ban on firearms for Thunder; Clarksville's stays despite state law

Law says municipalities can’t prohibit carrying and concealing

JEFFERSONVILLE — The city’s residents gave Jeffersonville officials a little nudge Wednesday night concerning a Thunder Over Louisville rule that violated state law.

Jeffersonville Corporation Attorney Les Merkley said he received a series of emails last night informing him that the city could not prohibit people from bringing weapons, such as firearms or pocket knives, to the event, per an Indiana law passed in 2011.

Despite the law, Clarksville police officials said the town will keep its firearms ban for Thunder.

The emails to Jeffersonville officials were in response to a list of banned items at Thunder the city published, including laser pointers and open alcohol containers.

According to the state law, a municipality “may not regulate ... the ownership, possession, carrying, transportation, registration, transfer and storage of firearms.”

Merkley said the city has banned weapons from Thunder for a few years now, but this is the first year he’s had any response.

“I would think it’s because the city publicized the list and the preparations for Thunder this year more than any year,” he said.

Merkley said he was not aware there was an issue until last night, but he removed the item from the list Thursday morning to abide by state law.

“Nobody brought it up,” he said.

Officials’ oversight of the law in the last few years was a mistake, he said.

“I don’t think the Thunder committee realized that the law had changed in 2011 that basically prohibited local governments from regulating the possession of firearms,” Merkley said.

A few years ago, however, the ban of firearms was legal.

“At one time, we had an ordinance that did prohibit firearms on city property or at city events,” he said. “In 2011, that ordinance was rescinded once state legislature passed the law.”

David Kirby, assistant chief for the Clarksville Police Department, said that after some research, he discovered firearms are on the list of prohibited items at the event area, beginning at Woerner Avenue and Riverside Drive, extending west along Riverside Drive and ending at the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center.

“We’ve never had a problem with it before,” he said, adding that he would have to check with the attorney general or public prosecutor to check if the ban goes against state law.

Kirby said though firearms is listed as a banned item — and will stay that way — it’s not something police officers are on the lookout for.

“It’s been there years past, and we’ve just never changed it,” he said.

He said that the only thing officers check is coolers to make sure people aren’t bringing in their own alcohol.

“We don’t make people open their coats up or pull their shirts up or anything like that,” he said, of searching for concealed weapons.


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