INDIANAPOLIS — A shooter targeting Hispanic residents in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 and injured two dozen last Saturday. Early the next morning, another shooter killed 9 and injured 16 in Dayton, Ohio.
The second shooting, with Dayton less than 40 miles from Indiana’s border, hit home hard for Hoosiers.
Nearly 900,000 Hoosiers had firearm licenses in early January, according to state police, putting Indiana above the national average for gun ownership.
For Hoosiers like Jon-Davis Wilson, 34, with lifetime gun licenses, parents need to take a bigger role, not only teaching their children about firearms but also monitoring their behavior.
“Parents should see the signs in their kids and their tendencies,” Wilson, who lives just outside Anderson, said. “In Richmond, a mother knew her kid was going to school (with two guns), and the mom called into 911 and cops apprehended the boy before he shot anyone.”
The 14-year-old boy died by suicide in December after exchanging gunfire with officers at Dennis Intermediate School in Richmond, but law enforcement credited the mother’s call for preventing a school shooting.
“That was extremely brave on the mother’s part to do that; especially with her own kid,” Wilson said.
In the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings, Indiana senators Mike Braun and Todd Young have fielded questions about gun control laws.
During a meet-the-public event Thursday at Shapiro’s Delicatessen in Indianapolis, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an Indiana chapter of the national organization advocating for gun control, discussed their concerns with the Republican senator.
“I like talking to people that might have a different point of view. … It’s the only way you’re going to find whether you need to refine what you’re doing,” Braun said. “I’m a big Second Amendment defender (and) will always be that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do common sense things that lower the violence and death that comes from guns - from suicides to homicides … and even mass shootings.”
Braun highlighted the impact of red flag laws on suicide rates and advocated for using such laws in other dangerous situations. Red flag laws allow police to confiscate weapons of people struggling with possible mental illness for a fixed period of time before judicial review.
“With the shooting from El Paso, I learned (Thursday) the mother tried to intervene with local authorities, and it didn’t get anywhere,” Braun said. “It shouldn’t have taken a manifesto before we take somebody like that serious.”
In addition to red flag laws, Braun said reducing the violence would require better enforcement of background checks, adding that he supports President Donald Trump’s call for the elimination of bump stocks, which enable shooters to fire more rapidly.
“The way the federal government normally does it - ineffectively - causes ripple effects, and it doesn’t really have a practical impact,” Braun said. “A lot of this needs to be done (with) states and local areas and looking at ways that are tailored to their own areas rather than involving, more broadly, the federal government.”
At another public appearance Thursday, Republican Sen. Todd Young addressed closing loopholes in current laws, saying he would consider all sides of the debate when dealing with a constitutional right.
“I’m for responsible gun ownership; I’m for taking appropriate action I think would actually be effective in addressing this,” Young said. “I think Indiana’s red flag law, the most robust red flag law in the country, is the sort of thing other states should be looking at, and perhaps we should be looking at that at the federal level.”
Young also suggested sharing information about mental health concerns with people who sell firearms.
While mass shootings like those in Texas spark politicians’ discussion of gun control laws, for many Hoosiers, like Jon-Davis Wilson, the more imminent danger for families lurks in everyday life.
Wilson said combination gun locks could protect curious children and prevent accidental shootings but children must recognize the danger in other places.
“If you don’t teach them early, they won’t have the respect for it,” Wilson said, noting that his 6-year-old son loves target practice in their backyard. “I don’t want them to be at a friend’s house and their friend pulls out a gun to play with. … My son’s going to say, ‘No, we’re not going to play with that. It’s dangerous.’”