Thursday, July 10, 2014

Prosecutor indicts lawmakers about guns

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge John Krull
  • John Krull

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry snorted.

I’d just asked him a question about the new gun laws adopted by the Indiana General Assembly, including one that allows people to bring guns onto school grounds.

Curry shook his head and said that he and other prosecutors have tried to tell state lawmakers that some of their ideas, such as allowing guns to be brought onto school grounds, aren’t good ones from a public safety point of view.

“They (state legislators) have made it clear that they’re not interested in hearing what we have to say,” Curry said.

Curry and I are in a studio, recording an interview for a radio program I host. It’s a Thursday morning. (You can hear the interview here.)

About 40 hours after Curry and I talked, a couple of people bumped into each other on a crowded sidewalk in Indianapolis north side neighborhood Broad Ripple in the wee hours of the morning. In true National Rifle Association fashion, both people decided to stand their ground and pulled out guns.

By the time they finished blazing away, seven people had been shot.

Then, later that same day, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Perry Renn and two other policemen responded to a “shots-fired” report on Indianapolis’s east side. When Renn and the other officers got to the scene a little before 9:30 p.m., they found Major Davis Jr. brandishing an assault rifle.

Davis fired on the officers. Renn fired back.

The exchange of gunshots wounded both men.

Davis ended up being transported to an Indianapolis hospital in critical condition.

Renn wasn’t so lucky.

The police officer died a little before 10 p.m. – maybe half an hour after he responded to the call for help.

And the city mourned.

Those tragedies had yet to occur when Curry and I talked, but they aren’t isolated incidents.

By the time the prosecutor and I sat down together, Indianapolis already had recorded more than 70 homicides this year. The city was on pace to threaten its 16-year old record for murder and mayhem in a calendar year – a dubious achievement, to be sure.

Curry made it clear in the interview that many factors are responsible for the homicide explosion in the state’s largest city. An illegal drug economy and culture – an ongoing problem that fuels both despair and violence – contributes a great deal to the abundance of tragedies in the community. A lack of meaningful educational and career opportunities also adds to the difficulties.

But the free flow of guns, Curry made clear, plays a role, too.

And it is not a constructive one.

He scoffed at the notion that the state legislators were toughening penalties for people using firearms during the commission of a crime. He pointed out that, at the same time that lawmakers made it possible for people to bring guns to school, they also adopted a new law that would decrease the time served for people who illegally use a gun.

Curry’s comments mirror those made by Indianapolis’s public safety director, Troy Riggs, when I talked with him a few weeks – and about another 20 murders – ago. Riggs said easy access to guns imperiled the city’s citizens.

Both Curry and Riggs also expressed frustration that state lawmakers weren’t interested in hearing from the public officials who have to deal directly with the consequences of gun-related violence.

And their criticisms came just a few weeks after a committee meeting in which state legislators berated citizens who were concerned about gun violence – and, in some cases, had lost loved ones in gun-related incidents.

The lawmakers made it clear they didn’t want to hear from those folks, either.

So, our legislators won’t listen to the prosecutors and law enforcement officials who have to deal with the explosion of gun violence we have in our state’s cities. They won’t listen to people who have lost family members and friends to guns. And they won’t listen to citizens who care about the carnage we’re seeing on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

All of that raises this question: When the subject is guns, just who the hell do Indiana’s elected representatives listen to?

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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