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September 24, 2013

County parks align gun policy with state’s

Board puts Vigo in compliance with 2011 Indiana law

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Park Board on Monday unanimously voted to amend its park policy to reflect state law that allows the legal possession of firearms in public parks.

Indiana’s pre-exempton law, which took effect in July 2011, prevents local political subdivisions from having their own firearms ordinances. It also removed local laws that prevent legal gun owners from carrying weapons into libraries, parks, fire stations and other public buildings.

The law does ban guns from being in public buildings such as a courthouse or school.

“Technically, we didn’t have to change the policy. Indiana code nullified the current park policy, but we are taking the extra step to be in compliance,” Park Superintendent Kara Kish said. “We didn’t realize the law included parks.”

The issue was brought to the attention of park officials earlier this month, Kish said, when her office received two telephone calls from Indiana National Rifle Association members “regarding that we had a policy that was not in compliance with Indiana law,” Kish said.

She reviewed Indiana code and set up a meeting with park officials for the city of Terre Haute. Kish said the county’s policy statement is a “carbon copy” of a policy adopted for the St. Joseph Parks and Recreation Department.

The former policy stated that “firearms, with or without a permit, including fireworks are prohibited on Vigo County park land.”  The policy now reads, “possession of firearms and weapons is prohibited except when permissible under state law.”

“This puts the stresser on the fact that unless you are licensed to carry, you are not permitted to carry,” Kish said. Fireworks remain prohibited on Vigo County park land.

Kish said state law already covers the lawful discharge of weapons. Any hunting on park property would be designated. In the past, the park department has allowed hunting of geese at Hawthorn Park.

Kish said the policy will not change how park staff members treat incidents. Staff will still be required to inform an individual who is violating park policy and give that individual an opportunity to comply.

However, Kish said, “our intentions are not to stop any individual who is carrying a firearm to ensure they have the proper license. If you carry a gun, you are to be licensed. But if someone is intimidating or is being aggressive, the staff will be instructed to call the sheriff’s department, and we would ask the sheriff’s department to have the individual provide their permit,” Kish said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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