Officer’s death raising questions about assault rifles, sentencing for gun crimes

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INDIANAPOLIS – As the police department and the community continue to mourn, there are more questions today about the AK-47 assault rifle used in the shooting death of IMPD officer Perry Renn.

“He used an assault weapon that he should not have had,” said IMPD chief Rick Hite. “The question is why?”

But technically, since the shooter apparently had no prior felony convictions, it might not have been illegal for Major Davis II to have such a weapon.

Here in Indiana, guns like these are perfectly legal for law-abiding citizens, and as we saw at Don’s Guns, they’re really not that hard to find.

“As long as the Constitution says you can have guns,” said owner Don Davis, “as long as none of that changes, it’s going to be this way.”

But how do you keep them out of the wrong hands?

“There is no way,” said Davis. “There’s no way other than legislation.”

So what kind of legislation? We asked lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Republican state senator Jim Merritt wants harsher sentences.

“If you brandish a gun in the commission of a crime, you should have a 20 year mandatory (sentence) enhancement,” said Merritt.

State Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, has a different take.

“Punishing the guy who did the crime will not stop the next guy,” said Delaney. “We’ve got to look at whether people in an urban environment in our city can really handle all of this weaponry… we need to look at the issue of whether we’ve gone too far permitting guns in this community.”

“You don’t see responsible gun owners committing crimes,” said Merritt. “Harsh sentences are the way to go and you will be put away.”

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill allowing judges to tack on 5 to 20 years in sentence enhancements for gun crimes, but Merritt says he’ll try again next session to make that a mandatory 20 years.

Meantime, even Davis said he would also like to see some changes, including a way to track where and to whom his customers eventually sell their guns.

“(If) you want to sell it, you should have to bring it back in here and say ‘I’m selling my gun,’” said Davis. “Make him fill out paperwork, we put it on the books… now if you find that gun out there, you know who owns it.”

Davis also said gun shows were part of the problem too.

“You can go to a gun show and buy a gun, no paperwork, no identification, no anything.” said Davis. “We all agree no one should be killed. How in the hell are you going to stop it?”

“Your heart has to go out to the Renn family and their friends,” said Delaney. “I hope we can act as a memorial rather than just purely mourn.”

“I believe we need to send a message to all the criminals who are committing these crimes that it doesn’t pay,” said Merritt.