Grandma Wants to Pack Heat at the Park

By Dick Johnson
|  Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011  |  Updated 10:38 PM CDT
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The Indiana General Assembly recently passed a law allowing concealed carry, and Michelle Bahus doesn't understand why Hammond officials aren't complying.

The Indiana General Assembly recently passed a law allowing concealed carry, and Michelle Bahus doesn't understand why Hammond officials aren't complying.

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A Northwest Indiana grandmother wants to pack heat, and she's hoping a judge will order the city of Hammond to repeal a law that forbids her from carrying a firearm into a public park.

The Indiana General Assembly recently passed a law allowing concealed carry, and Michelle Bahus doesn't understand why Hammond officials aren't complying.

She and another man, Samuel Dykstra of Highland, a student at Purdue Calumet in Hammond, filed the lawsuit Monday.

Bahus has a state license to carry and said she wants to be able to protect her grandchildren while they play at the city's Hessville Park. Mayor Tom McDermott, however, refuses to allow the repeal of a local law banning the right to carry a weapon.

"She's packing," said McDermott. "I don't know understand why people feel the need to do that, but if she's licensed, under state law, they have that right."

Hammond's ordinance was created about 20 years ago, after an estranged husband shot his wife and killed himself in City Hall. But now it directly conflicts with the new state statute that allowed licensed guns in public places.

McDermott said that while he won't repeal his ordinance, he said he doesn't believe he's violating the law because the local ordinance simply isn't being enforced.

"We just consider our ordinance null and void," said McDermott.  "The fact is we don't check. We don't violate state statute."

He said he's put his foot down on the issue as a matter of principle.

"That's what principle gets you. You get sued," he said.

But principles can go both ways, and the Indianapolis lawyer working with Bahus and Dykstra said he's got the law on his side.

"If I'm a grandma, don't I need protection more than someone who's more physically capable? To me it makes perfect sense," said attorney Guy Relford. "And if Indiana provides her a legal right to do that... why would the City of Hammond want to deny that to her?"

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