IN Focus: One-on-one with Gov. Eric Holcomb

INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) sat down with FOX59 for a wide-ranging year-end interview on a number of important topics, including school safety, hate crime legislation, and the controversy surrounding attorney general Curtis Hill.

This past week, tragedy struck another Indiana community when a teenager took his own life at a middle school in Richmond, putting the conversation about school safety back in the news here in Indiana, months after another school shooting in Noblesville.

“There’s no one solution to this. This is obviously folks who are, again, struggling with some mental health issues," said Holcomb.  "I really do want to commend the schools in doing all that they can."

Still, some parents groups have been critical of the governor's school safety plan, questioning whether the state is doing all it can when it comes to preventing students from getting access to guns.

Parents from the group "Noblesville Stands Together" said they'd support closing loopholes in Indiana's firearm background check system and extending the background check requirement to all guns sold.

They'd also like to see criminal penalties for allowing a child to access a negligently stored firearm.

"We're not anti-gun, we're anti-school shooting," said parent Nathan Lambert. "A common denominator to all these school shootings is that a kid had their hands on a gun that shouldn't have."

At the Statehouse, State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) is working on legislation of his own, though no bill has yet been filed.

"It just all depends on the language. I don't support the idea that everybody has to have a gun safe," Merritt said. "But I do support the aspect that mom and dad are liable if a child has given them some reason to believe they're dangerous. And then they go and shoot up a school, I believe mom and dad have to be liable and it's just all according to how you write the law and we're taking our time and thinking about it and this doesn't have anything to do with the national type of approach that people are talking about, has nothing against the NRA, it's about responsible gun ownership and really personal responsibility."

Holcomb wouldn't commit when asked about Merritt's legislation, but said it was a discussion worth having.

“I think the parental groups are right around the state that we need to have that discussion. Obviously, in many of these cases. Not just in Indiana but around the country, when you trace it back, where are the weapons?” said Holcomb. “If we can continue to use the red flag law and enhance it potentially, that enables us to more proactively intervene so that students aren’t getting weapons from a legal owner, which is a second amendment right.”

Merritt thinks the legislation will be a "heavy lift" but believes there's a chance.

Naturally, there are differing opinions on the topic.  State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) questions how you define safe gun ownership.

"You can't. Plus, that does nothing to stop someone committed to murdering others and could actually end up costing lives in the event someone needs to get to their firearm in an emergency," Lucas said in a statement.

“We’re all going to have to do more," said Holcomb. "There has been violence of all sorts – whether it be in schools, or on streets, or in the business place – there has been violence since the beginning of time. The question in my mind is always why, and what led to it, and how can we intervene before it erupts in such a destructive way. There is not a simple solution to say – nor would I stand for – we’ll just eliminate the second amendment. We’ll just eliminate and we’ll take the guns out of the equation. That won’t solve this problem.”

In the video above, Holcomb is also asked about the controversy surrounding attorney general Curtis Hill, who is accused of groping a state lawmaker and three staffers at a party in March.

Holcomb has called for Hill's resignation, but deflected when asked about calls for Hill's impeachment.

“My position on this matter has not changed on iota," said Holcomb. "I believed after reviewing the first investigation and then the second and then the third – validated three times over – that he should resign. I believe that office holders, especially statewide office holders should be held to a higher standard not a lower standard than our employees.”

In the video below, Holcomb discusses the push for statewide hate crime legislation, a proposal the governor is supporting in next year's session.

“I don’t think it’s just the right thing to do, I think it’s overdue, and I think we’ll wake up after it’s completed, the sun will come up, and we’ll have proof in our hand that we are that welcoming state that we know that we are,” said Holcomb.

IN Focus will air more clips of our interview in the coming weeks, as Gov. Holcomb discusses other key topics from 2018, and looks ahead to the coming legislative session.