The National Rifle Association might have jumped the gun in its call for a mass protest of a proposed Columbus pawn shop ordinance.
An NRA mass email sent to Bartholomew County residents Thursday urged them to contact Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown and the city council to protest council consideration of a firearm registration ordinance.
The NRA alleged the proposed ordinance “blatantly disregards Indiana’s firearm preemption law.”
But it turns out the NRA is upset about an earlier version of the ordinance, not the one that will be considered by the city council Tuesday.
The newest version of the ordinance calls for local pawn and secondhand shops to register merchandise into an online database, which would be used by police to search for stolen merchandise.
The Pawnbrokers, Jewelers, Valuable Metal Dealers and Secondhand Dealers ordinance specifically excludes firearms, as defined by Indiana law, said City Attorney Jeff Logston.
The NRA didn’t know that because the organization had been sent an early draft.
Logston called the NRA on Thursday to reassure the organization the version it has is not the ordinance that will be considered Tuesday.
The newest version “specifically excludes their concerns about regulating firearms,” he said.
A copy of the ordinance provided by Logston states: “The requirements and processes set forth shall not in any way apply to firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories as defined by Indiana law.”
Mayor Kristen Brown received more than 80 calls, emails and social media contacts about the NRA email.
Saying she was a very strong proponent of the Second Amendment, which protects the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, she said she had no desire to impose any restrictions on firearms and there was never any intention to do so.
The ordinance has been under discussion for more than a year, and the NRA was referring to a draft that had been distributed for discussion, Brown said.
“We never released it,” Brown said. “The police department used it in its conversations with
The reference in the draft ordinance to firearms was caught by police within the past couple of weeks and removed, Brown said.
The draft ordinance sent to the NRA read, “If a pawnbroker or secondhand dealer purchases secondhand property, a firearm or a firearm accessory, the information required to be electronically recorded for each transaction shall include ... ”
It then goes on to list the need for date of sale, price, description, the seller’s date of birth, address and signature and government-issued identification used to verify identity of seller.
A correct version, without the firearms wording, was sent to council members in its document packet for the Tuesday meeting, Brown said.
“I really wish the NRA had checked with us before sending this out,” Brown said, adding that getting everyone “up in arms” over the ordinance was not necessary.
Gun shop alerted NRA
Mike Hatfield, of Phoenix Guns, 5025 E. State St., said he sent the proposed ordinance to the NRA on Monday, sending a version he obtained from a pawn store operator.
Neither he nor his source thought the document was a working document.
“If somebody is going to take a hit on this it should be me, and not the NRA,” he said.
Hatfield also did not want any blame placed on the mayor, Police Chief Jason Maddix or the NRA over the mass email.
“In this instance, I’m sorry it had to happen. ... The last information we had was that the city was solid on this. The ordinance that was provided to the NRA was the one that was provided to the pawn shops.”
Hatfield’s wife, Carolyn, who owns Phoenix Guns, and he decided to contact the NRA because of the perceived threat to gun ownership rights.
City Hall workers who answer phones received numerous calls Thursday from area residents who received the NRA email, according to Chris Schilling, city communications and program coordinator. The NRA also urged constituents to email their councilman.
When contacted, the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action agency, which sent the emails, told callers to leave a voice-mail message.
NRA spokeswoman Katelyn Bledsoe said Friday she had no comment about the mass email sent to area residents.
City councilman Frank Miller issued what he believed to be the timeline that resulted in the NRA acting on information that since has been amended.
“My big thing is that we don’t need to be beating the NRA over the head,” he said. “Over a five-week period, everything being presented (for council discussion) had the firearms wording in it; it would be easy to assume it was in there.”
According to Miller, an NRA email sent Dec. 19 indicated the group knew wording about firearms was in the draft ordinance and part of the discussion. Up until the Jan. 21 council meeting, the wording still included firearms, Miller said.
On Wednesday, Bledsoe sent an email to the mayor and council with an opposition letter attached. The NRA “alert” mass email was sent the same day, prior to the council receiving the Feb. 4 agenda, which Miller said he received at 4:36 p.m.
“The document we received at 4:36 p.m. was the first time we had seen the changed wording. So the NRA folks would also have had no knowledge of the wording change as it was not out yet,” Miller said. “So sometime between the Jan. 21 council meeting and the Jan. 29 at 4:36 p.m., the wording did indeed finally change.”
The NRA did have a hand in changing the ordinance, Miller said, who added that he too is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment.