July 10, 2023

'People will be safer’: Indy City-County Council passes gun control proposal, but needs changes to state law

The Indianapolis City-County Council approved two proposals Monday to address violent crime in Marion County. - Kendall Antron/WFYI News

The Indianapolis City-County Council approved two proposals Monday to address violent crime in Marion County.

Kendall Antron/WFYI News

The Indianapolis City-County Council approved two proposals Monday to address violent crime in Marion County.

One action will allow the city to hire attorneys to prosecute violent offenders on the federal level. Another measure would control access to guns in Marion County, but state law needs to change in order for those restrictions to take effect.

The efforts are part of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s violence reduction strategy, which began last year with the hope of decreasing crime in the city. In May, Hogsett announced the proposals as an addition to his plan.

State law change needed for proposal to regulate access to firearms

The council approved the proposal that would regulate access to guns in Marion County, which passed 18-5. Republican Councilors Paul Annee, Joshua Bain, Michael-Paul Hart, Brian Mowery and Michael Dilk voted against the measure. Democratic Councilor Crista Carlino was not present for the vote, and Democratic Councilor David Ray was not at Monday’s meeting.

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

In May, Hogsett announced that one of his office’s top priorities during the next legislative session would be convincing the Indiana General Assembly to change state law around gun restrictions, which includes a preemption statute that prevents local governments from regulating firearms.

“Tonight we are sending a clear message of where we stand about the causes of gun violence and the proliferation of illegal weapons on our streets,” Hogsett said in a statement in response to the proposal’s passage.

Comments from councilors about the proposal grew emotional Monday evening. Democratic Councilor La Keisha Jackson recalled when she was at the scene of a shooting in 2015 at the Washington Square Mall, during which three people were shot.

Jackson represents District 14 on the city’s far east side, an area that experiences heightened gun violence.

Democratic Councilor Ali Brown spoke about the prevalence of mass shootings across the country.

“This may not go into effect tomorrow, but when there's finally some common sense people in that damn Statehouse, this will go into effect and people will be safer,” Brown said.

While Democratic members of the council commended the proposal, Republican councilors said it was “toothless,” pointing to the need for state law to change for it to take effect.

“If we were serious about tackling our city’s public safety crisis, we should be spending our time and energy on actionable proposals that will bring real, meaningful change and not this political propaganda,” Councilor Joshua Bain said.

Attorneys will prosecute more people federally

The council also unanimously approved a proposal that allocates $225,000 to hire attorneys, who will report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The attorneys will prosecute people for violent offenses on the federal level.

Federal crimes often carry higher penalties than state charges. Defendants can be denied bail and must serve the majority of their sentence in prison.

The money will fund the positions for the rest of 2023. Additional funding for those positions will need to be allocated in the city’s budget for next year.

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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