June 15, 2023

Committee approves proposal to regulate Marion County firearms, but state law has to change first

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor speaks at a City-County Council Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee meeting on June 14, 2023.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor speaks at a City-County Council Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee meeting on June 14, 2023.

Indianapolis City-County Council committees approved a series of proposals this week that aim to address gun violence, after a weekend that saw multiple shootings across Marion County.

One measure would initiate the hiring of three attorneys to prosecute violent offenders on the federal level. Another proposal would control access to guns in Marion County, but would go into effect only if state law changes. The efforts are part of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s violence reduction plan, which began last year with the hope of curbing crime in the city.

The proposals will be put forward for a final vote at the City-County Council meeting next month.

Attorneys to prosecute more people federally

The City-County Council’s Administration and Finance Committee unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday that allocates $225,000 to hire the three attorneys, who will report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The money will fund the positions for the rest of the year. Additional funding for those roles will need to be allocated in the city’s budget for next year.

Federal crimes often carry higher penalties, and defendants can be denied bail and must serve the majority of their sentence in prison.

“We believe that as we continue to look to be more strategic and more focused, this being in our toolbox only enhances our ability to make our community safe,” said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Deputy Chief Kendale Adams at the committee meeting.

Proposal to control access to guns in Marion County

On Wednesday, the City-County Council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee approved a proposal that would regulate gun access in Marion County. Nine council members voted in favor of the measure, and four against.

The proposal’s first provision would create a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons such as AR-15s. A second would increase the minimum age to purchase a weapon from 18 to 21. The third would end permitless carry of handguns.

Last month, Hogsett announced that one of his office’s top priorities during the next legislative session would be convincing the General Assembly to change state law surrounding gun regulation.

Currently, individuals do not need a permit to carry a firearm in Indiana. Indiana has a preemption statute that prevents local governments from regulating firearms.

Multiple council members said Wednesday that Indianapolis should be able to enforce its own laws on firearms.

“I implore our state legislature to remove this ban and allow our city to rule for the benefit of our people,” said Democratic council member Dan Boots.

Republican council members like Joshua Bain voted against the proposal.

”We’re going to continue to blame guns, other tools like that, for what is ultimately a spiritual issue that's affecting our society,” he said.

But IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, who supports the measure, said more concrete solutions are needed. 

“I've always said that I would much rather someone decide not to shoot someone, work on someone's heart, and not do these crimes in the first place,” Taylor said at the meeting. “And I'm still all for that. However, we don't seem to be winning that battle right now.”

Homicides in 2023

As of this week, 101 people have been killed in Indianapolis. That number includes criminal and non-criminal homicides.

Law enforcement considers criminal homicides to be intentional killings, or murders. As of June 15, 85 criminal homicides have been committed in 2023. That’s down from 92 criminal homicides at about this time last year.

Non-criminal homicides are deaths that police believe are not criminal in nature, such as killing in an act of self-defense. To date, 16 non-criminal homicides have been reported this year, an increase from three non-criminal homicides at about this time in 2022.

While the number of non-criminal homicides is up, IMPD Deputy Chief Adams said the department is concentrating on criminal homicides.

“I don't think it’s likely we're going to prevent every homicide, particularly when we have a state that is very persuasive around ownership of guns,” Adams said. “All in all, I think the number we're trying to impact most is criminal homicides and that number is down, thankfully.”

Adams said the majority of homicides stem from personal conflicts that escalate out of control.

Dane Nutty, executive director of the Indy Public Safety Foundation, said it’s important to remember that gun violence is a deeply complex issue that goes beyond just the number of homicides.

“There's a story attached to each one of these incidents,” he said. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote to council member Brian Mowery. The quoted council member was Joshua Bain. 

Contact WFYI criminal justice reporter Katrina Pross at kpross@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @katrina_pross.

Pross is a Corps Member of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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