Hoosier senators tout ‘red flag’ laws

Indiana’s two senators have touted “red flag” laws as Democrats seek to forge a compromise on gun legislation following a massacre at a Texas elementary school that left two teachers and 19 students dead, including a 10-year-old boy who had relatives in Columbus.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, signaled Thursday that Democrats will give bipartisan negotiations in the Senate about two weeks — the next 10 days, while Congress is away for a break — to try to find a compromise gun control bill that could pass the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome a filibuster, The Associated Press reported.

A small, bipartisan group of senators who have for years sought to negotiate legislation on guns huddled Wednesday night in the Capitol, according to wire reports. But so far, there appeared to be little appetite among Republicans for major changes. Schumer acknowledged Democrats’ “deep skepticism” about reaching a deal.

When asked about what action, if any, should be taken on guns following the school shooting, Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, focused on his support of “red flag” laws and mental health services.

In a statement to The Republic, Young said “red flag” laws can give law enforcement “a better chance at stopping senseless attacks.” Young said the federal government could play a role by providing states and local communities with more resources to enforce such laws, though he did not specify what kind of legislation he would ultimately support.

“Red flag” laws, which have been enacted in Indiana and several other states, allow police or courts to seize guns from people who show warning signs of violence. Indiana was one of the first states to enact a red flag law, after an Indianapolis police officer was killed in 2004 by a man whose weapons were returned to him despite his hospitalization months earlier for an emergency mental health evaluation.

“I am deeply saddened by the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Texas,” Young said in the statement. “Our nation mourns the innocent lives taken in this senseless tragedy, and my heart breaks for everyone who lost a loved one. They deserve answers on how and why this terrible event took place. All children and teachers deserve a safe and welcoming environment in our schools.”

“While we don’t yet know if it could have had an impact in this situation, enforceable red flag laws give local law enforcement a better chance at stopping senseless attacks,” Young said. “Like a number of states, Indiana has a red flag law, and the federal government can come alongside these efforts and provide state and local government with more resources to best execute red flag laws. In addition, I have long supported and will continue to support increased federal funding for better access to mental health services and efforts to recruit, develop, and retain more mental health providers. We must work together as a nation to address the increasing social alienation and mental health challenges affecting too many Americans.”

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, did not respond to requests for comment on what action he thinks should be taken on guns, if any. However, Braun touted Indiana’s “red flag” law in comments to The New York Times.

“I’m going to focus on school security, which I know works,” Braun said. “We’ve got red flag laws in Indiana that have really measurably worked. A lot of them need to be fine-tuned.”

The comments from Indiana’s senators come as the country continues to reel from the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade. On Tuesday, a gunman stormed Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two teachers.

The attacker, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, crashed the truck outside the school, got out with a rifle and approached a back door, officials said. They said an officer assigned to the school may have “engaged” Ramos, but the gunman got into the building and down a hallway to a fourth-grade classroom. After locking the classroom door, he opened fire around 11:30 a.m. with an AR-15-style rifle, carrying multiple magazines.

On Thursday, law enforcement authorities faced mounting questions and criticism over how much time elapsed before they stormed Robb Elementary School, according to the Associated Press.

During the siege, which ended when a U.S. Border Patrol team burst in and shot the gunman to death, frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the school, according to witnesses.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Wednesday that 40 minutes to an hour elapsed from when Ramos opened fire on the school security officer to when the tactical team shot him.

But a department spokesman said Thursday that authorities were still working to clarify the timeline of the attack, uncertain whether that period of 40 minutes to an hour began when the gunman reached the school, or earlier, when he shot his grandmother at home.

Currently, it is unclear whether a “red flag” law or expanded background checks would have been able to prevent the massacre. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.

Ramos legally bought the rifle and a second one like it last week, just after his birthday, authorities said. About a half-hour before the mass shooting, Ramos sent the first of three online messages warning about his plans, Abbott said.

Indiana’s “red flag” law came under scrutiny last year after a former employee shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, according to wire reports.

The attacker, Brandon Scott Hole, never appeared before a judge for a hearing under Indiana’s “red flag” law, even after his mother called police last year to say her son might commit “suicide by cop.”

Police seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole, then 18, in March 2020 after they received the call from his mother. However, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said authorities did not end up seeking such a hearing because they did not have enough time under the law’s restrictions to definitively demonstrate Hole’s propensity for suicidal thoughts, something they would need to have done to convince a judge that he should not be allowed to possess a gun.

The following month, a judge in Indianapolis who oversees the filings of red flag cases in Marion County issued new guidance, according to the Associated Press. All such reports will now go straight to her courtroom instead of the prosecutor’s office. Indianapolis police will have 48 hours to submit those filings, and two judges will then decide within 14 days whether to hold a hearing.