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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Gun control conversations divide Indianapolis

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As Indianapolis residents mourned the loss of eight people in the FedEx shooting April 16, it was difficult to escape calls for gun control legislation. During a vigil at Monument Circle on April 18, Maninder Singh Walia, a board member of the Sikh Association, called for immediate action to be taken on gun control.

“Who else has to lose a grandmother, a sister, a family member?” he asked the crowd. Rep. Andre Carson also called for gun control legislation in the wake of the FedEx shooting.

“Like all Hoosiers, I am heartbroken by the recent shooting at the FedEx facility, and every mass shooting in our community,” Carson said in a statement to the Recorder. “This is part of a nationwide epidemic of gun violence that I’ve been working to stop for many years now. … At the state level, I strongly urge our leaders to enact more gun violence prevention measures. The shooting at the FedEx facility further proves that red flag laws, like the one we have in Indiana, aren’t enough by themselves to prevent senseless gun violence.”

The state’s red flag law — which allows police to seize a person’s firearms if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others — was called into question by Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears following the shooting. Mears said failures in the law allowed shooter Brandon Hole to carry out the attack. Authorities investigated Hole, 19, in 2020 after his mother reported she worried he would attempt “suicide by cop.” As Hole was questioned, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) reported a shotgun was taken from Hole’s house.

However, a provision in the law allows prosecutors to seek hearings to bar an individual from obtaining future weapons. Mears opted not to seek such a hearing in 2020, saying he was satisfied after Hole’s family didn’t attempt to get the seized shotgun back although Mears previously criticized the provision, calling it a “loophole” that allows a person to buy firearms. In a press conference April 19, Mears said the 14-day window allotted to prosecutors to make their case was not enough time to “have access to meaningful medical history” that could help his office prove Hole was a danger to himself and others.

On April 22, Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder criticized Mears for not seeking a hearing and for his criticism of the law.

“The police took all steps available to them to ensure lawful intervention measures were completed for the safety of the individual at large and the community at large,” Snyder said. “Subsequently, we have learned that the Marion County prosecutor failed to do his part by filing the necessary paperwork with the courts that would have triggered the hearing required under the statute. Instead, the Marion County prosecutor highlighted that his perceived shortcomings of the red flag law as the basis for his decision to not initiate court proceedings. … As a result of this missed opportunity, we now know the suspect was able to legally purchase firearms months later … that we believe were used in the attack.”

Mears did not respond to requests for comment.

Because there is no database currently available to track red flag law interventions, it is unclear how effective it is at preventing future acts of violence.

One thing being left out of the gun control debate, Indianapolis resident Quincy Murphy said, is poverty.

“Middle-class Black people don’t kill each other,” Murphy said. “In terms of violence within those groups economically, Black people rank towards the bottom compared to people who are in poverty, there’s a direct link to it. Chicago always comes up, and people bring up gun violence, but we don’t talk about poverty and lack of access and the history of violence towards Black people.”

Murphy, 30, is a registered gun owner. As a Black man, he said he’s in one of two groups — African Americans and women — who need firearms.

“When people are talking about gun control, they forget how dangerous it is to be Black in America,” Murphy said. “We’re the ones who need guns, and it’s kind of weird to bring up gun control with Black people, because, really, we’re not the ones committing mass shootings.”

Murphy doesn’t believe there are any gun control measures that will effectively reduce violence if poverty isn’t addressed. Instead, he said redistributing funding toward mental health care could prevent future mass shootings.

“We could have the strictest gun control laws, but if these people still don’t have access to mental health resources, the same stuff is still going to happen,” Murphy said. “The things that made them do it still exist.”

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that only 3-5% of violent crimes are committed by someone with a mental illness. It is unclear at this time whether Hole suffered from a mental disturbance.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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