After a 24-year-old man killed nine people and injured 17 others outside a bar in Dayton in August 2019, Mayor Nan Whaley warned that it isn't “if, but when” a mass shooting will happen in another U.S. city.
For Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, “when” came late Thursday, when eight people were shot to death at a FedEx facility south of Indianapolis International Airport. The gunman took his own life.
Before the shooting, Hogsett joined mayors already too familiar with the effects of gun violence – the Dayton mayor, and the leaders of Boulder, Atlanta, Orlando and elsewhere – in calling on Congress to enact stronger firearms background check requirements. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry also signed the letter organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“Americans are increasingly alarmed by mass shootings and by the steady increase in homicides and shootings plaguing too many neighborhoods,” the letter states. “As mayors, it is our top priority to ensure public safety; protecting our residents from gun violence is at the very heart of this commitment. It is time for our federal partners in Congress to take long-overdue action to reduce gun violence and the terrible toll it takes on our cities and in our nation.”
City spokesman John Perlich said public safety will always be a top concern for the Democratic mayor.
“Though many of our city's homicides result from guns, gangs and drugs, one death is one too many,” Perlich wrote in an email statement. “The mayor supports the actions taken by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to call upon Congress to pass common-sense laws to reduce gun violence and save people's lives.”
Guns were used in 34 of the 41 deaths ruled as homicides in Fort Wayne last year, according to Fort Wayne Police Department records. The department also investigated 90 non-fatal shootings last year.
In addition to Henry and Hogsett, the letter is signed by Republican Mayor James Brainard of Carmel and Democratic Mayor Jerome A. Prince of Gary. Together they represent more than 1.3 million Hoosiers, about 20% of the state's population.
Federal legislation they endorse includes the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would expand checks on firearm transfers between private parties, and the Enhanced Background Checks Act. The latter would close the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allows federally licensed firearm dealers to transfer guns to customers before background checks are complete.
White supremacist Dylann Roof used the loophole in 2015 to obtain the gun used to kill nine people in a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The proposed law would extend the amount of time a firearms dealer must wait, from three business days to a minimum of 10 business days, for a complete background check.
The letter, signed by more than 150 mayors, is directed at the Senate, where the House bills await. President Joe Biden endorsed the legislation earlier this month.
Background checks are effective in keeping guns out of the wrong hands. Retailers have denied firearms sales more than 1.9 million times based on offense records found in the checks, according to FBI data.
Mayor Henry and other city leaders deserve credit for their support of lifesaving measures. U.S. Senators Mike Braun and Todd Young should take note.