INDIANAPOLIS — While last week’s mass shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx facility has brought attention to Indiana’s gun laws, changes this session aren’t likely as lawmakers expect to wrap up this week.
Republican leaders say it would be irresponsible to pass something in the final days of session on this topic. However, we may see gun proposals in January.
Republican State Sen. Erin Houchin said we’ll never know if Indiana’s red flag law would have worked in the case of Brandon Hole because his case was not pursued by Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears.
“Had the prosecutor followed the red flag procedure in this case, then this 19-year-old might have not been able to purchase a second firearm after the family did voluntarily turn over that weapon,” said Houchin.
She said she didn’t agree with Prosecutor Mears’ claims that the law limited his ability to pursue the case. Mears said despite the good intentions behind the law, its application is problematic. Since Hole surrendered the gun and there was no overt violent act, the prosecutor’s office didn’t have a reason to pursue the matter further.
Even though Hole had mentioned the idea of “suicide by cop,” Mears said that mere utterance was not sufficient to pursue an order from a judge.
“The law doesn’t require necessarily a medical diagnosis. The court could find that based on the statements that he had made,” said Houchin.
In addition, Mears suggested the 14-day limit to file a case doesn’t provide enough time to investigate.
“In my view, nothing in our existing red flag law would have been a hindrance for the prosecutor, and quite frankly, we don’t know what that outcome could have been because we never pursued it,” said Houchin.
She said it’s too late in the session and too soon since Thursday’s shooting at FedEx to pursue legislation now, but she’s looking into possibilities for next year.
“I would be open to methods that might make it more strict, but I can’t speak to that today,” said Houchin.
Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor said he doesn’t blame the prosecutor or flaws in the red flag law.
“Who needs to be held accountable? It’s the Indiana General Assembly,” said Taylor.
Last year, Sen. Taylor proposed raising the age to buy a rifle to 21. The shooter was 19.
“He should have never been eligible. He was 19, and he had mental problems. He probably could have fixed them by 21, but we didn’t have the wherewithal in this legislature to pass legislation,” said Taylor.
Indiana’s red flag law was created in honor of Officer Jake Laird, who was killed in the line of duty. His father, Mike, has advocated for the red flag law to be expanded across the country and even strengthened here in Indiana.
“I know that it needs to have a lot more work done to it,” said Laird.
He said he hates that it has taken more lives lost for people to consider it.
“It’s sad, and it’s not right,” said Laird. “But it’s always the tragedy that brings it to the forefront, but it doesn’t seem like anything ever gets done.”
Taylor said he’ll keep proposing legislation on this topic even if it doesn’t pass.
“I pray that it does happen, but I don’t have a lot of confidence that it will,” said Taylor.
“I’m always open to looking at and reflecting on our existing laws and whether and how they can be improved,” said Houchin. “I think that until we know everything that we can gain from this experience, I wouldn’t want to say what should or shouldn’t be changed.”