INDIANAPOLIS — Of the handful of incidents that involved teenagers and guns this past weekend, one illustrated the apparent futility of attempting to keep firearms out of the hands of children.
“He wasn’t acquainted with the gun that he had anyway,” said Fred Collins, grandfather of a 15-year-old boy accused of shooting another 15-year-old boy in a dispute over girls. “He should have never had it anyway.”
Collins said his grandson wasn’t a party to the argument between a pair of teenage boys but was convinced by others to retrieve a gun from a relative’s house and bring it along to the fight.
“I’d taken a nine millimeter away from him about a couple months ago and took it away from him and kept it in my room,” said Collins who later discovered the boy found the gun and took it back. “He was asked by another friend to get the gun for someone who had a permit who was 18.
“They’re passed around from underage people to other underage people for money or whatever they want to trade but it’s not always money.”
Thus far this year, seven people 18 years old or younger have been shot to death in Indianapolis, a homicide rate greater for that age group than in the last three years on this date.
“We were definitely seeing last year a rise in youth violence,” said Tony Lopez, Deputy Director of Violence Reduction for the Office of Public Health & Safety, “and so we have done grantees within the Office of Public Health and Safety grantees that are focused on youth violence so we have three grantees this year, two of those grantees are specifically youth-focused, especially that teenage age range from that 12- to 18-year-old range.
“A lot of stuff you see is social media influence, a lot of social media beefs, a lot of different things that people get their influences from, and with the easy access to firearms now, especially with the new laws we run into the fact that it’s hard to really give that education.”
One community youth mentor and author said a casual and fatalistic attitude toward children and firearms permeates Indianapolis.
“Our community is definitely not at a shortage for predatory behavior between the older community members or the OGs as you call them,” said Mutulu “Zion” Ekundayo when asked about the ease with which teenagers gain access to guns. “Some of them get them from OGs. Some of them get them from crime in the streets. Stealing.”
Zion said many youngsters find guns literally closer to home.
“In some cases, I’m pretty sure it’s just a family environment, it’s just something that they all did and maybe tragically hasn’t hit close enough to home for them to see truly how much of an issue it really is,” he said. “If that is the consensus in the community which is implied due to the silence, it definitely needs to be checked.”
Collins said despite his best teachings, his grandson still showed a fascination for guns.
“I tried the best I could that it wasn’t right, and I wasn’t never allowed to handle guns at that age,” he said. “They’re not educated actually on what a gun will do when they give it to another person. They just don’t know.”
Collins’ grandson is being held in the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center on charges related to Sunday morning’s shooting.
The grandfather said the boy was already on Probation for an auto theft case.
“What should be done with your grandson?” I asked.
“To not be treated like a hardcore criminal,” said Collins.
“A second chance?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” said Collins. “He was doing better.”
“Until he did bad,” I said.
“That’s when guns came in,” Collins agreed. “The music they listen to and the other kids they hang around with don’t listen and they’re not educated on actually what guns will do.”