Two more buildings have been added to a codified list of Monroe County facilities where the possession of firearms—licensed or unlicensed—is prohibited.
Already on the list were the courthouse, the justice center, the Curry Building (7th Street), and the old Johnson’s Hardware building (7th Street).
Joining those four are the recently renovated county health services building (7th Street) and the youth services bureau (Adams Street).
The ordinance amendment was approved Wednesday morning by the three county commissioners on a unanimous vote.
What’s the common denominator for the county buildings where firearms are prohibited? They all contain a circuit courtroom of some kind.
Under state law a local government can prohibit possession of a firearm “in a building that contains the courtroom of a circuit, superior, city, town, or small claims court.” [IC 35-47-11.1-4]
Bloomington’s city council has recently heard public comment, calling on the city’s legislative body to use the same state law to ban firearms at the city’s farmers market.
The last time the county ordinance was amended was in 2011. Two years after that, Monroe County purchased the old Johnson’s Hardware building. As a part of Wednesday’s ordinance amendment, commissioners removed a reference to the leased status for the community corrections space inside the building.
The prohibition against possession of firearms in the old Johnson’s Hardware building extends to the county’s election division offices, which are housed in the building, county attorney Jeff Cockerill confirmed to The B Square.
Most of the county’s circuit courtrooms are located in the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center, not at the old county courthouse in the middle of the square. On Wednesday, Cockerill briefed commissioners on the fact that Nat U. Hill Room—which is the regular meeting room for commissioners—is used as a backup courtroom for the circuit court.
Cockerill also noted that the Curry Building has a courtroom used for child support hearings.
The same statute that allows the county to regulate firearms in buildings with courtrooms also allows the county to prohibit the intentional display of a firearm at a public meeting.
The county’s ordinance states: “The intentional display of a firearm, whether licensed or unlicensed at a Monroe County public meeting is prohibited.”
Bloomington’s city code has a similar prohibition. One city law prohibits the intentional display of a firearms at city council meetings. The city’s ordinance, which was enacted in 2011, also prohibits the intentional display “at any public meeting of the city’s boards, commissions and councils.”
Three weeks after the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting on May 24, Bloomington resident Mark Haggerty used public commentary time to address the city council at its June 15 meeting on the topic of local regulations on firearm possession. Haggerty noted the statutory power the council had used in the past (2011) to prohibit the intentional display of firearms at public meetings of boards, commissions and councils.
Haggerty pointed to the same statute as providing the power to enact prohibitions against possession of firearms at “events”—like the Bloomington farmers market.
The statute mentions an “event occurring on property leased from a political subdivision or municipal corporation by the promoter or organizer of the event.” The “promoter or organizer” of the farmers market would likely be analyzed as the city’s parks and recreation department. It’s not clear if the relationship between the parks and recreation department and its use of the parking lot at city hall could be analyzed as a “lease” under the statute.
Haggerty told the council that public comment time was not an adequate venue to have the needed discussion on the topic. About the idea of using the council’s possible statutory power to ban firearms from the farmers market, Haggerty told councilmembers: “Republicans haven’t tied your hands. Mythology has tied your hands.”