Should government land in Lake County be utilized to sell “war weaponry” like the high-powered AR-15 semi-automatic rifle? Following the May 24 massacre of 19 third and fourth-grade students and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school that necessitated DNA testing to identify some of the victims because the children’s bodies were utterly torn apart by bullets fired from an AR-15, Lake County Councilman Charlie Brown, D-Gary, believes it’s time for county officials to have that discussion.
“I’m not sure what else an AR-15 is used for besides combat,” Brown explained. “Why are these war weapons being sold on federal land?” Brown is alluding to a gun show conducted every six to eight weeks at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point, which features dealers selling AR-15s on a regular basis. He stated that he has no objections to the gun exhibition itself and that he is not attempting to steal anyone’s firearms.
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However, in the wake of Uvalde, as well as the recent tragic shootings of two people in a Gary nightclub and a shooting at a graduation ceremony in the Steel City, Brown wonders whether the county can’t take action to prevent the sale of specific rifles, such as the AR-15, on the fairgrounds. “I’m aware of only one function for these things: to kill someone. We aren’t at war in Lake County, either “Brown remarked.
Brown attempted earlier this week to persuade the Democratic-controlled county council to pass an ordinance prohibiting the sale of AR-15 rifles on the fairgrounds. Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, endorsed the idea wholeheartedly. “When are we going to act?” she questioned her coworkers.
“There are more limits that should be put in place. I’m not sure why we sell those guns. They kill a large number of individuals in a short period of time “Cid remarked. While Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, sympathizes with Brown’s viewpoint, he insists that a ban on AR-15 sales at the fairgrounds can’t be hurried, given the likely litigation and the fact that the county’s three-member Board of Commissioners has jurisdiction over how the fairgrounds are used.
Brown responded by saying: “All that nonsense about what the present legislation says is a waste of time. Let us hear from the residents of this county about whether they want us to put this on the front burner so that no more lives are lost unnecessarily.” Following the meeting, Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, expressed curiosity about knowing more about what the county may do to regulate or control how entities leasing space at the fairgrounds utilize that space, especially given the AR-15 is a legal product.
“I’ve asked people to look into what we can do within the confines of the law and the Constitution to better serve our taxpayers. Charlie makes several valid concerns, in my opinion. But I’m at a loss for words right now. I believe it is a worthwhile investigation, but I am unsure of the solution “Repay stated in his case. The commissioners may, he argued, theoretically, prohibit the selling of all products on the fairgrounds.
While Repay recognized that going down that road would certainly result in the county losing rental revenue, it would put a halt to AR-15 sales without appearing to target gun sales. Another idea, according to Repay, is to require fairground vendors to maintain a real storefront in Lake County or Northwest Indiana. As a result, he claims, the county is preventing existing companies who sell weapons or any other goods, as well as employ locals and pay property taxes, from being undercut by transitory competition operating on the fairgrounds.
“If we discover a solution, I’d like it to be a decent one that can stand up to any form of court scrutiny,” Repay added. “I’m not opposed to firearms. I have a large collection of firearms. There will be no AR-15s. I also bought a couple of them at a gun show.” A firm called Central Indiana Gun Exhibits organizes the two-day gun shows at the Lake County Fairgrounds. Vendors pay $50 for an eight-foot display stand, which includes electricity.
Central Indiana Gun Shows is owned by Daniel Hedger of Richmond, Indiana. When contacted by The New York Times, he said it was the first time he’d heard of the potential restriction on AR-15 sales at his Crown Point exhibition. “I have no idea where they came up with that,” Hedger remarked. “I’m not sure you could do it legally. I’d have to consult with my lawyer.”
The AR-15, as Hedger pointed out, is a specific rifle manufactured by Colt’s Manufacturing Company. However, he estimates that there are about 200 identical rifles made by other manufacturers that aren’t AR-15s and may still be sold even if the county prohibits merchants from selling AR-15s on the fairgrounds.
“Personally, I am not a fan of an AR. To be honest, I’ve never been fond of the rifle. But I don’t believe you can put a label on it “Hedger remarked. He stated that ARs are always for sale at Crown Point gun shows, including the one coming up July 2-3 at the fairgrounds. “Everything from hunting rifles to bolt-actions to law enforcement carries to shock guns,” he stated.
“The majority of the weapons used in crimes were purchased from dealers. The paperwork was completed in a legitimate manner. They don’t usually come from gun shows; instead, they come from gun shops or are stolen in crimes “Hedger remarked. Medical negligence, intoxicated driving, and even blunt force trauma from hammers, according to Hedger, kill more people than guns, and no one is proposing a ban on selling the vehicle used most frequently in deadly drunk driving collisions.
“Politicians go after things that make them feel good and make them seem good in the eyes of the public,” Hedger explained. “You can spend all day stacking laws on the books. Criminals will continue to break the law.” Officials should consider banning social media if they want to restrict anything, he said, because criminals use Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to improve their tactics and connect with people who are also interested in committing crimes.
“People have the ability to feed into your ego. They have the ability to exacerbate your fury. It feeds the fires of lunatics who want to do something dumb “Hedger remarked. The next Lake County Council meeting is set for July 12 at the Crown Point Government Center. Because it is also a courthouse, guns are not permitted inside.
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