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Indianapolis mayor, prosecutor call for ‘common sense’ gun reform

Carter Barrett
Side Effects Public Media
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett spoke in support of "common-sense gun reform" at a rally on June 3, 2022.

Local officials, gun reform advocates and family members of gun violence victims were among those who rallied in downtown Indianapolis Friday to push for gun control legislation. The rally, led by the Indiana chapter of Moms Demand Action, drew around 100 supporters.

In addition to multiple mass shootings in recent weeks, rally leaders recognized that gun violence is a daily occurence in some Indianapolis neighborhoods. Like in the case of Kianna Jones, whose 15-year-old son, Khalil Bankhead, died from an accidental gunshot wound in 2019.

“I'm coming from the urban city of Indianapolis, [the] inner city where a lot of people do not want to be bothered with us,” Jones said. “I am a statistic, unfortunately.”

In 2021, Indianapolis had the highest number of homicides on record, with 271 people killed.

In a speech, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hoggsett joined cities across the country in recognizing June 3 as National Gun Violence Prevention Day. The symbolic gesture offers no policy change, but Hogsett said his administration continues to invest “unprecedented” resources to address the root causes of gun violence.

“It’s true that the tools we possess at city government to address gun violence are, frankly, insufficient,” Hogsett said.

Instead, Hogsett called on state and federal officials to pass “common sense gun safety reforms.”

“They can wield the urgency of this moment, where the stark choice is between more life or more death,” Hogsett said.

A staff member of Rep. Andre Carson, a Democrat who represents Indiana's 7th congressional district, read prepared remarks that advocated for universal background checks, closing a loophole that allows guns to purchased before a federal background check is completed, and stronger red flag laws. Still, federal gun reform legislation appears stalled in the Senate.

“Weapons of war have no place in everyday life,” Carson wrote in his statement.

Approximately 100 people gathered in downtown Indianapolis to support gun reform legislation. The June 3 rally comes in the wake of multiple mass shootings across the country. Photo by Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media
Approximately 100 people gathered in downtown Indianapolis to support gun reform legislation. The June 3 rally comes in the wake of multiple mass shootings across the country. Photo by Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears also spoke out against Indiana’s permitless carry law, which will allow most Hoosiers to legally carry a firearm without a license starting July 1. He said the change will create problems for police and make it more difficult to prosecute cases.

“The causes of gun violence are complex, but part of the solution is making sure that everybody has a permit when they carry those handguns,” Mears said. “Part of the solution is making sure we ban assault rifles, and that weapons of war have no place in our community.”

Mears said the prosecutor’s office increasingly sees semi-automatic pistols modified into what are effectively automatic weapons.

Mears faced criticism for declining to use Indiana’s red flag law against the man who killed eight people and himself at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis last year. Red flag laws allow police to confiscate guns from a person who is deemed a danger to themselves or others.

New guidance now requires all red flag law cases be presented to a judge, effectively circumventing the prosecutor’s office.

Indiana Moms Demand Action organizer Alex Rollo led Friday’s rally. She said she was energized by President Joe Biden’s Thursday night speech that called on lawmakers to pass gun reform.

“The needle is moving,” Rollo said. “Is it moving as quickly as we'd like it to? No, absolutely not. But I assure you, it is moving.”

Contact reporter Carter Barrett at Follow on Twitter: @carter_barrett.

Copyright 2022 WFYI Public Radio. To see more, visit WFYI Public Radio.

Carter is a reporter based at WFYI in Indianapolis, Indiana. A long-time Hoosier, she is thrilled to stay in her hometown to cover public health. Previously, she covered education for WFYI News with a focus on school safety. Carter graduated with a journalism degree from Indiana University, and previously interned with stations in Bloomington, Indiana and Juneau, Alaska.