Indiana’s Red Flag law could have stopped 19 year-old Brandon Hole from legally buying the guns he used to kill eight people at a FedEx facility last week, but the Marion County Prosecutor said the law has significant limitations.
Police seized a gun from Hole last year following a mental health call from his mother who worried her son would harm himself, but no petition was filed. The law says a court hearing should take place within 14 days of seizure.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said this tight window and a lack of access to mental health records limits the office in building a case.
“We want to be able to say we made a decision based on having an opportunity to talk to healthcare professionals, review medical records, look at someone's mental health history,” Mears said. “Those are the things that should be important to these determinations and the timeframe and the statute just doesn't allow for that.”
Because the family willingly gave up the weapon, Hole was briefly transferred to a mental health facility. No one contested the seizure and a follow up petition was also not filed.
For the law to work, a court would need to determine that the individual has a propensity for violence or mental instability.
In 2005, Indiana became one of the first states to pass a Red Flag Law. The legislation was introduced after Indianapolis police officer Jake Laird was killed by a man whose weapons were returned to him despite having been hospitalized months earlier for an emergency mental health evaluation. Now, 18 states and Washington D.C. have similar laws.
Mears said he’s been outspoken about the limitations of Indiana's law.
“It's a good start. I think people here red flag and I think it's the panacea to all these issues. It's not,” Mears said. “What it is is a good start where there's a number of loopholes in the practical application of this law."
Mears said Indiana’s law is not designed to stop people from purchasing firearms in the future.
“This statute is the return of firearms as opposed to having a very thoughtful and careful review of someone's mental health history to determine whether or not they should possess a firearm,” Mears said.
Hole, a former employee at the FedEx facility, killed eight people before turning the gun on himself. Authorities traced the rifles found at the scene and learned he purchased them legally in July and September last year.