There was a mass shooting in Broad Ripple when, as I understand it, a couple of patrons bumped into each other and decided to resolve their differences with lead; a police officer was killed in Indianapolis by a guy toting a high powered rifle; a Gary officer was shot in his patrol car; and two men were shot in Lafayette while sitting on their porch in what has been described as a “walk by” shooting. Prior to the Fourth, an individual was arrested in Lafayette after he posted threats to kill a West Lafayette police officer, the Tippecanoe county Sheriff, and two judges as well as a threat related to blowing up the Tippecanoe County Court House. A search of the man’s home revealed aluminum powder and black iron oxide – both substances used to make thermite.
In response to some of these incidents, Sen. Jim Merritt has indicated that he intends to push for legislation next session that would dramatically increase penalty enhancements for criminals that use a gun.
Rep. Jud McMillin is skeptical of an approach that just enhances penalties:
Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, sponsored last session’s gun crime enhancement bill and is one of the architects of the state’s criminal code overhaul. He says the legislature can’t only focus on punishing crimes after the fact.
“It’s not as simple as just throwing the book at somebody after it happens,” McMillin says. “And even if it is, you’re still handling it after it happens…and we want to prevent these things from happening in the first place.”
McMillin says lawmakers need to focus on helping treat mental health issues and addiction, which he says are often at the root of these crimes.
Despite the apparent surge in newsworthy violence, I think the overall trend is that crime is down. So, it’s entirely possible that we are safer these days even as the world feels less safe. So, some caution is perhaps in order when we devise policy responses. On the other hand, the U.S. has troubles with gun violence that no other developed country seems to have. As the Onion put it, “‘No way to prevent this,’ says only nation where this regularly happens.'” Sure, there are bad actors everywhere. But the ready availability of firearms enhances the force available to these people and the availability of similar force to good actors doesn’t seem to mitigate the damage all that much. Regardless of how the cost/benefit shakes out, the Second Amendment puts an additional wrinkle in the calculation. Even if we decide that the wide availability of firearms is a net harm to our society, short of Constitutional amendment, what remedies are available to us?