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April 5, 2020

2/10/2020 12:59:00 PM
Gun rights resolution controversy
Commissioners won't be considering proposal this week
North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs, Jennings County Sheriff Kenny Freeman and State Rep. Jim Lucas sign the Second Amendment sanctuary county resolution on  Jan. 17.—Staff Photo by Bryce Mayer
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North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs, Jennings County Sheriff Kenny Freeman and State Rep. Jim Lucas sign the Second Amendment sanctuary county resolution on Jan. 17.—Staff Photo by Bryce Mayer
When the Jennings County Board of Commissioners hold their regular semimonthly meeting Thursday, there will be no Second Amendment sanctuary resolution on the table.

When Sheriff Kenny Freeman, North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs and State Rep. Jim Lucas signed the resolution declaring Jennings as a Second Amendment sanctuary county on Jan. 17, Freeman said he was considering introducing the measure for the commissioners to consider at their Feb. 13 meeting.

Now, Freeman says, he won't.

"I don't think it's necessary to bring it up to the commissioners," the sheriff said.

Whether the resolution has any legal authority is probably a matter of judicial interpretation. The resolution calls for local law enforcement personnel to uphold the Second Amendment and not enforce any new gun control measures enacted after Jan. 17. Many legal experts, however, say federal and state laws always supersede county laws.

Matt Sporleder, president of the Board of Commissioners, says he is relieved he and fellow commissioners Dave Lane and Bob Willhite will not be addressing the issue at Thursday's meeting.

"The way I understand it, we couldn't have signed it the way the resolution was written," Sporleder said.

Nevertheless, Freeman says he feels good about the resolution.

"The people of Jennings County like that local law enforcement is protecting them and their rights," the sheriff said. "I have received mostly positive feedback since we signed the resolution with really only one person from Jennings County complaining about it. There have been a few complaints from out of the county and out of the state, and that's OK."

Freeman said he reached out to an Indianapolis family who wrote a letter to the Plain Dealer last month saying they were boycotting coming to Jennings County to visit any parks or recreational areas because they feel unsafe due to the resolution.

"I wrote them back telling them I would personally escort them in Jennings County to make sure they would be safe, but they never answered back," Freeman said.

Jennings County was the first county in Indiana where elected officials have declared a Second Amendment sanctuary county, though there are several counties in 23 other states that have previously done so.

Freeman said people from three other Indiana counties in the state have contacted him about Jennings County's resolution.

"Tippecanoe County asked for a copy of our resolution," he said. "I think there may have been a couple who have become a sanctuary county."

The Board of Commissioners in Grant County, Ind., rejected the proposal, however, instead adopting a resolution that says it merely supports gun owners' rights.

"That's just basically a statement and it's really nothing," Sporleder noted. "Supposedly other counties have done the same thing and I understand another group is going to come to our county to try to get us to adopt the same thing.

"Until I see on paper and read what is proposed, until Ellie (county attorney Ellie Bright) can read it and give us legal advice, I'm not going to sign anything," he added.



Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, February 15, 2020
Article comment by: Bryce Jackson

Just another form of dog-whistle politics, an elected official using the office to imply promises that can't be kept so the Sheriff can win votes by courting certain demographics. Then again, I suppose the promise could be kept, but the Sheriff would run the risk of winding up like the darling Joe Arpaio, convicted of contempt of court. It doesn't matter your stance on gun rights, these resolutions are among the most useless and impotent charades I've seen lately.

Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2020
Article comment by: Benjamin Voiles

I'm wondering what it really does. Does it allow me to carry concealed without a permit? Can I carry my gun into bars or schools? Can I carry my gun on my bicycle? What exactly does it do? From talking to many of its supporters it seems to do absolutely nothing! I'm interested in how it affects me as a gun owner. Nobody has been able to give me an answer yet.



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