INDIANAPOLIS – Top public safety officials in Indianapolis and Mayor Greg Ballard are supporting state legislation that they believe would crack down on violent gun crime.
The bill they have testified on behalf of is Senate Bill 169.
“If you look over our crime numbers over the last year, even though our total shootings were down last year, homicides were up, and of those individuals that committed homicides or were victims in homicides, over 75 percent of them had previous crimes against individuals in their past,” said Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs.
He said violent offenders need to face stiffer penalties. Senator Jim Merritt, (R) Indianapolis, shares his viewpoint. He is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 169 that will have a second reading on Monday.
“If you’re going to pull that trigger, it has got to be more time behind bars. It has to be that you’re doing time in jail for at least 20 years on top of what your sentence is for the crime,” said Sen. Merritt.
He was referring to violent offenders who commit a crime.
The bill also speaks to a so-called third-party. Anyone who gives a gun to a felon or someone who cannot legally possess a gun, would face a felony if the proposal became law.
If someone gives or sells a gun to anyone else knowing they intend to use it to commit a crime would face the same penalty, a felony.
Senator Greg Taylor, (D) Indianapolis, opposes the law change.
“It doesn’t say that you actually know. It says, ‘if you have reason to believe,'” said Senator Taylor. He continued. “I find it ironic that we’re going to penalize a third-party for some action someone else is going to do.”
Taylor said investing in different types of rehabilitation and training are better tools for these offenders if the aim is to deter them from committing another crime and returning to jail. He also mentioned further impacting jail overcrowding with longer sentences.
“Jail was created to be a rehabilitation. Now, it’s just a housing project,” said Sen. Taylor.
“We’re talking about right at 400 to 500 shootings in Indianapolis every year,” said Riggs. “We’re not talking about a substantial amount of people when talking about these violent crimes.”
Senator Merritt said he plans to change the language of the bill to toughen it. He wants the language to say any offender who fires a weapon during a crime will get an extra 20 years tacked onto the sentence handed down.
A judge or prosecutor would not be able to intervene. The current language allows for a range of an extra 10 to 20 years.