FedEx shooting builds pressure for smarter gun laws

Some 20% of guns retrieved at Illinois crime scenes come from Indiana. But many of our neighbors to the east don’t especially care.

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A body is taken on Friday from the scene where multiple people were shot at a FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis. A gunman killed several people and wounded others before taking his own life in a late-night attack at a FedEx facility near the Indianapolis airport, police said.

Michael Conroy/AP

After a rifle-bearing gunman killed eight people and injured others at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis late Thursday, Indiana Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun tweeted that the victims’ loved ones and co-workers “will be dealing with this tragedy for a long time to come.”

Notice who Braun didn’t say will be dealing with it: Congress.

Or even the Indiana state legislature.

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That all too common attitude — “nothing for us to do here, folks” — helps explain why the United States has far and away the greatest number of gun deaths among all wealthy nations. We witness horror after horror — Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the Pulse nightclub, Virginia Tech and daily shootings on our streets — and little or nothing happens.

The FedEx calamity was at least the third mass shooting in Indianapolis just this year. It followed a recent string of mass shootings across the United States, including eight people fatally shot last month at massage businesses in the Atlanta area and 10 at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. The United States lurches from one tragedy of gun violence to another.

Yet too many elected officials refuse to consider smarter laws that could reduce gun violence.

Braun, who calls himself “100% pro-2nd Amendment,” should be working day and night to reduce gun violence. But like so many other elected officials, he isn’t. It’s a sign of America’s out-of-control gun culture. 

That attitude doesn’t play well in Chicago, where guns easily obtained under Indiana’s lax gun laws are constantly brought to Chicago and used in crimes. Some 20% of guns retrieved at Illinois crime scenes come from Indiana. But many of our neighbors to the east don’t especially care.

“Other than representatives who come out of the northwest part of Indiana, I think they tend to take the attitude it is Chicago’s problem, not ours,” said Paul Hanson, vice president of Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence.

Instead of addressing gun violence, Indiana lawmakers recently pushed a bill to revoke that state’s law that requires a permit to carry a weapon, either openly or concealed. That effort appears to be dead for now, but gun safety advocates expect similar efforts in the future.

Such tolerance for gun trafficking is a problem for Illinois, Kathleen Sances, president and CEO of the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention PAC, said on Friday. “Everything they do to weaken their laws makes it worse for us because the guns come across the border.”

On Friday, FedEx said the shooter at its facility was a former employee. Police identified him as Brandon Scott Hole, 19. When he arrived at the facility, he started shooting quickly in the parking lot without any confrontation beforehand. He apparently shot himself after entering the building, police said. His mother reportedly had warned authorities of his potential for violence, and police had confiscated a gun from him last year.

We hear such stories too often after victims have died or been injured. Congress and the states should be working overtime to find ways to protect people from gun violence.

In Illinois, for example, there are no background checks on person-to person firearms sales and transfers. The seller is required to check that the buyer has a Firearms Owners Identification card, but the seller doesn’t have to ensure the FOID card is valid or run a background check. Legislators should pass the Block Illegal Ownership legislation in the state House and Senate to close that loophole and others.

On the federal level, the Senate should approve three bills tightening background checks that have passed the House. The bills would expand background checks on individuals seeking to purchase or transfer firearms and close the so-called Charleston loophole, which allows gun sales to proceed without a completed background check if three business days have passed.

And all that should just be a start.

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President Joe Biden was right when he said, “Gun violence is an epidemic in America. But we should not accept it. We must act.”

Rachel Guglielmo, a volunteer with the Indiana chapter of the gun safety group Moms Demand Action, says the biggest challenge is that too many people don’t pay attention.

To enact the laws we need, “there is no way other than citizen engagement and activism,” she said.

That’s a message we all need to heed. For too long, gun groups have been the most vocal. It’s time for the rest of us to speak up.

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