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Local communities could not sue gun industry, even for illegal acts, under Senate-approved bill

Aaron Freeman stands on the floor of the Senate. Freeman is a White man with dark hair, with glasses perched on the top of his head. He is wearing a suit and tie.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) said only the state of Indiana — via the attorney general — should be able to bring a civil lawsuit against those in the gun industry, not local governments.

Local communities in Indiana won’t be allowed to sue the gun industry — even for illegal actions — under legislation approved by the Senate Tuesday.

HB 1235 is aimed at ending a lawsuit by the city of Gary against gun manufacturers and sellers that dates back to 1999.

Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis), the bill’s sponsor, said the issue is simple.

“It’s a 25-year-old situation,” Freeman said. “There’s other municipalities that could do this and I think only the state of Indiana should.

Under the bill, the Indiana attorney general is the only government authority that could bring lawsuits against the gun industry. Current Attorney General Todd Rokita has said he’ll never do so.

The attorney general's office disagrees with that interpretation of Rokita's comments, however. It said he does not support the Gary lawsuit, which the office describes as a public nuisance case "based upon lawful activity."

The AG's office said Rokita would not bring any case like that against the gun industry, but is not ruling all lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers.

Gary officials and attorneys involved in the lawsuit disagree with the characterization of their case. They argue the suit isn't about lawful activity, but about unlawful actions by gun makers and sellers.

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Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) pleaded with his colleagues not to take away local communities’ right to protect their citizens.

“We are choosing an industry over our people,” Taylor said.

The Senate passed the bill 33 to 15. It now heads back to the House, which can vote to send it on to the governor or take the bill to conference committee for further work.

This story has been updated.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.