INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- As America’s mayors gather in Indianapolis this week for the 84th Annual Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, many municipal top executives will be thinking about the violence they left behind.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer just led his city through the horrific gun murders of 49 people at a nightclub and is set to address city and university issues.
Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson will chair a standing committee addressing criminal and social issues while Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake and White House Advisor Valeria Jarrett will keynote the same issue following Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s welcome Saturday morning.
Freeman-Wilson’s city sits just across the state border from Chicago which suffers from its own epidemic of gun violence as this year’s murder tally passed 300 over the Father’s Day weekend.
Chicago leaders claim many of the guns fueling the violence in their city originate in Indiana and the northwest corner of the state, and recent statistics verify those claims.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports that nearly ten percent of the crime guns it recovered and processed in Illinois last year came from Indiana.
An examination of studies accumulated by GunPolicy.org, an international information clearinghouse for firearms statistics, shows a 2010 study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that Indiana ranked 8th in the nation, high above its U.S. Census population standing, for the export of crime guns to other states.
“We have a lot of gun dealers in this state, we have a high level of gun ownership in this state and as a result, we end up exporting guns to neighboring states,” said Indiana University Professor Paul Helmke, former Fort Wayne mayor, President of the U.S. Conference and President and CEO of the Brady Center/Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “We have a disproportionate amount of gun dealers, of guns and of gun violence as a result.”
Indiana State Police report there are 60 gun dealers in Indiana while the ATF listed 2,667 Federal Firearm Licensees in 2011.
“In the Midwest, Indiana is one of the go-to states,” said Helmke.
The lack of timely data is partially as a result of congressional denial of funds for federal studies of gun violence
“Congress has said you can’t do research on gun violence,” said Helmke who added that gunmakers also have immunity from liability lawsuits. “The NRA and the gun lobby have been brilliant. They don’t want any research. They don’t want any lawsuits.”
California lawmakers recently passed legislation funding gun violence research at a university level.
Indiana has a permissive legislative culture when it comes to firearms, which suits gun ownership proponents who claim the state is not stymied by onerous laws to block the pursuit of self-protection and sportsmanship.
Indiana received a D- rating from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence while neighboring Illinois received a B+ score despite Chicago’s record murder tally.
The Brady Campaign gave Indiana four points out of a possible 100 in 2011 for laws that prevent gun violence.
“Indiana was always in the bottom ten or so, ten or 15, in terms of having weakest gun laws, in terms of being a state that supplied crime guns to other states,” said Helmke. “There’s no wall around Chicago. There’s no border crossing requirements from Indiana to Illinois and a lot of crime guns go from Gary, from Lake County, just from the state of Indiana in general into the Chicago area.”
When it comes to gun sale and training legislation, Indiana’s record is a mixed bag compared to its border states.
Of the five states, only Indiana does not require handgun training before issuance of a permit.
While only Illinois and Indiana regulate gun shows, background checks are not required of private sales in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio and only partially required in Illinois and Michigan.
Gun dealers are required to conduct background checks in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.
50,965 licenses were issued by ISP in the first quarter of 2016, bringing the number of active licenses in Indiana to 703,237 for a population of approximately 6.6 million people.
“These are law and order issues,” said Helmke. “Mayors, regardless of whether they are republicans or democrats, are pushing for safer communities and that means, I think, they want congress to do something about these things and they’re going to push congress.”
Democrats in the U.S. House completed a 26-hour long sit in on the floor of the House early today to call attention to gun safety legislation in anticipation of lawmakers returning to work after the 4th of July holiday.