Indiana is awash in guns as homicide records proliferate

Last year was one of the bloodiest years in Indiana history as Indianapolis set yet another homicide record with 271 murders, while Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend all had deadly years.

Perhaps, just perhaps … it’s because Indiana is awash in guns.

On Tuesday, the Indiana House voted 63-29 on HB1077 the “constitutional carry” bill that would abolish permits to carry handguns. According to National Instant Criminal Background Check System that was created by the 1998 Brady Act, these checks have increased steadily over the past three years after spiking during the 2016 election cycle.

Indiana NICS firearms checks totaled 1,815,531 in 2021, down slightly from 1,935,587 in 2020. In 2019, there were 1,450,565 checks. These checks spiked to 1,436,725 in 2016 and 1,076,917 in 2015 when there was speculation that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was heavily favored over Donald Trump. Rumors were rampant that a third Clinton administration would herald new gun restrictions.

While Indiana has a population of 6.8 million people, the NICS checks during these five years totaled 7.7 million.

Donald Trump pulled off the most stunning upset in American history in 2016, and afterwards NICS checks declined to 830,357 in 2017 and 896,145 in 2018.

In 2021, Indiana had 972 suicides for a rate of 14.2 per 100,000 people, which ranked 36th in nation, with 58.6% of those suicides were by firearms.

According to the website, a recent review of Indianapolis’ violence issues, specifically involving guns, from March 2018 to February 2020 found around 75% of people had multiple arrests before the homicide. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said on average, both suspects and victims had more than five prior arrests. “The suspects, on average, were arrested at least seven times by the time of the homicide incident,” Allison Davids, Intelligence Analyst at the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, said.

The number of non-fatal shootings in Indianapolis has almost doubled since 2015, when there were 426 shootings, increasing to 424 in 2016, 433 in 2017, 448 in 2018, and 746 in both 2020 and 2021. Nearly half of the 271 homicides committed in Indianapolis lastyear (45.7%) are still unresolved, according to the 2021 homicide report released by IMPD.

In 2021, Allen County and Fort Wayne had 48 homicides, just short of the record of 49 set in 2016, while in Evansville 21 people were murdered, the most since 2017 and, according to the Evansville Courier & Press, “one of the highest totals since the late 1960s.”

This mayhem is also occurring on Indiana’s doorsteps. Chicago recorded 836 murders in 2021, the most since 1994. In Louisville, there were 188 murders, topping the old record set in 2020 of 173.

HB1077 is sponsored by State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, who said last week as the bill passed out of committee on a 9-3 vote, “I’m here with House Bill 1077 representing Mr. and Mrs. Lawful Hoosiers to tell that person that they don’t need to be delayed; they’ve done nothing wrong their entire life. They should be able to defend themselves in public, at home and where they choose.”

“This bill represents a big win because it cuts government red tape for law-abiding Hoosier gun owners,” Smaltz said. “As lawmakers, we need to do what’s necessary to protect our Second Amendment rights. That means getting this legislation across the finish line. It’s my hope the Senate considers and acts on this important bill this session.”

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported that a Smaltz constituent survey in 2019 asked, “Do you believe Hoosiers who are legally permitted to possess a handgun should be able to carry a handgun in public without first applying for and obtaining a state-issued license?” Smaltz’s results showed 64% saying no, 31% yes, and 5% undecided.

The bill, similar to a measure that died in the Senate last year, is drawing opposition from law enforcement agencies. Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly told the House Public Policy, “Should this bill pass, there will be no means for our officers to know if a person is legally carrying a handgun. Law enforcement relies on the license … as a precious filter to prevent the carrying of handguns in public by applicants with prohibiting criminal histories, drug addiction or mental illness. This bill shifts the burden to officers.”

Indiana State Police statistics revealed about 30% of the 10,000 rejected handgun applications were due to a prior felony conviction. Without licensing, intrusive traffic stops will take longer as officers seek to determine whether a subject is prohibited from gun ownership

“It’s still a process of begging the government for permission to exercise a right you already have,” said Guy Relford, a 2nd Amendment attorney, who spoke before the committee.

But Democrat State Rep. Mitch Gore, who serves as a captain in the Marion County Sheriff Department, explained, “Law enforcement generally is opposed to the bill, and it’s not because the law enforcement profession is a bastion for liberalism, but it’s because it has serious negative implications for what we do every day. The more information that law enforcement can get, the more secure they feel at a traffic stop or on the scene of an incident.” The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.