Attendees of the 2014 Indiana Republican State Convention will be allowed to carry firearms.
The announcement comes in contrast to previous statements made by party officials who had said the Grand Wayne Convention Center in Fort Wayne wouldn’t allow firearms at the convention on June 6-8.
Convention center executive director Barton Shaw says, under a 2011 law, the facility is considered a political subdivision and therefore can’t regulate the possession of firearms in the building.
According to Shaw, anyone who rents the space, whether it’s a high school for a prom or a political party for a convention, can apply their own policies regarding firearm possession.
State Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, says the announcement isn’t a very big deal.
“I don’t see anything that’s unreasonable about having qualified, lawful citizens having their firearms with them,” he says.
Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, however, doesn’t understand the need to have firearms at the convention.
“I don’t see why they need guns at a convention,” he says. “Why would they need guns at a convention?”
Tomes and Smith were on opposite sides of the most recent gun legislation, Senate Bill 229, which Gov. Mike Pence signed into law in March. The bill allows law-abiding gun owners to have their firearms locked in their vehicle while on school property and also prohibits the use of taxpayer money for gun buyback programs.
Tomes says there’s a distinction between law-abiding citizens that conceal and carry and law breakers using firearms.
“In every state, including Indiana, there are people that go to races, sporting events, social affairs, they have their firearms, they participate, they enjoy themselves, they meet other people, they go home and nobody ever knows the difference,” Tomes said.
“I think guns give people false courage,” Smith said. “Where you would not be able to do what you would do with your fists, you do it with the equalizer.”
Tomes says that while he expects some delegates to exercise their right to carry firearms at the convention, he guesses that most probably won’t.