INDIANAPOLIS — For most of us waking up last Friday morning, the news that eight Hoosiers had been killed in a massacre at a FedEx facility wasn’t so much a surprise, as a “shock” that it had finally happened here.
There had been 54 mass shooting events since March in the United States, and, according to Gun Violence Archive, 147 such lethal “incidents” in 2021 alone. As this article was being written Tuesday afternoon, an “active shooter” situation was underway in West Hempstead, N.Y.
The FedEx massacre brought on a range of emotion. Gov. Eric Holcomb described himself as “shaken,” Speaker Todd Huston called it “heartbreaking and shocking,” while Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray termed it “senseless and completely shocking.” They all praised first responders and expressed sympathy for victim families.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said it delivered a “devastating blow” and warned against “resignation and despair” while urging the community to “engage in serious conversations.”
President Joe Biden noted “a lone gunman murdered eight people and wounded several more in the dark of night” and added, “Gun violence is an epidemic in America. But we should not accept it. We must act. Last week, I called on the Justice Department to better protect Americans from gun violence. I also urged Congress to hear the call of the American people — including the vast majority of gun owners — to enact common sense gun violence prevention legislation, like universal background checks and a ban of weapons of war and high-capacity magazines.”
Hogsett pointed out he was one of 150 mayors to sign a letter asking the U.S. Senate to expand background checks and close the so-called “Charleston loophole,” the flaw in the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System that allows by default a gun sale if the FBI misses a three-day window to assess the mental and legal credibility of the buyer.
Aasees Kaur of the Indianapolis Sikh Coalition spoke with a heavy heart after four members of the Sikh community were murdered at FedEx. “We must support one another, not just in grief, but in calling our policymakers and elected officials to make meaningful change,” Kaur said. “The time to act is not later, but now.”
Just hours after the massacre, State Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, sent out a press release vowing to resist any changes in Indiana gun laws. “It is the policy of the Indiana Senate that our state will oppose any correctional taxes, fines, restrictions, prohibitions regarding lawful firearms, accessories or ammunition,” Baldwin said. “Indiana will not restrict or limit the sale, possession, distribution of purchasing of firearms and will also protect those who deal and manufacture firearm products that are protected under both the U.S. and Indiana constitutions.”
Hamilton County Democrats accused Baldwin of not only being “tone deaf” but “alarmingly dangerous.” They said: “It signifies an actively defiant will to ignore the voices of the citizens they are meant to represent, Republican and Democrats alike. As we approach the three-year anniversary of the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, which took place squarely in Sen. Baldwin’s district and served as a catalyst for a galvanization of Hoosier support for gun-sense legislation, it is clear that the will of the people is still not being heard.”
Baldwin said in a statement provided to Howey Politics Indiana, on Tuesday, “The email was drafted earlier in the week, regarding pending 2nd Amendment legislation, and its release was pre-scheduled and regrettably timed. I apologize for that. Please know my family and I are praying for the victims and loved ones impacted by the incomprehensible violence that occurred in our capital city.”
On Tuesday, Gov. Holcomb was asked about initiating “regulatory” and reforms to Indiana’s pioneering red flag law (that was used unsuccessfully by the shooter’s family) during the last few days of the current General Assembly session. “It’s an issue for law enforcement at this time, both at the local and federal levels,” he said.
So the politicians are dug in on gun reforms.
According to a PMC article by Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhD, and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD, up to 85% of shootings occur within social networks. “In other words, people are far more likely to be shot by relatives, friends, enemies, or acquaintances than they are by lone violent psychopaths,” they explained.
Tom M. Conley, who owns a Des Moines security company, writes in Security Magazine, that 44 million American adults have a mental health condition. “To me, any individual or individuals who carry out a mass shooting of innocent people meets the definition of being mentally ill,” Conley said. “No ‘normal’ person would ever engage in that type of act. It is clear that adequate funding to help the mentally ill, as well as simultaneously increasing the number of professionals in the mental health workforce, is needed so there is not a shortage of help for those who suffer from mental illness.”
In the biennial budget deal announced by Gov. Holcomb, Speaker Huston and Sen. Bray on Tuesday, $100 million in additional mental health funding was included.
In this polarized environment, that’s a start.
But in this perfect storm of mass killings, the status quo will continue until someone who is so diabolical emerges from the shadows, kills an unfathomable number of people in a sacred place, tipping the political and funding scales into a much more dynamic action.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.