Ed DeLaney: America’s gun culture prevents real change

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Ed DeLaneyThe massacres occurring across the country and at our FedEx facility are predictable, not as to exactly where or when they will occur, but to the basic point that they will happen.

How can this be? After all, FedEx and other companies spend generously on security measures designed to protect their employees. And the Indiana Legislature passed a detailed red-flag law aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

So why do we continue to have this problem? The cause is that “the culture of the gun” demands that priority be given to those who insist not just on having guns but on having assault weapons. They prevail over those who respect the Second Amendment but also care about personal safety. Let’s look at the red-flag law as a litmus test for my conclusion that things are out of balance.

The core idea behind conservative support for red-flag laws is that the problem is not with the gun, but with people, and that these people can be identified and helped. Of course, identifying and helping these people is often just random. But let’s follow the logic, anyway.

As the theory goes, once dangerous individuals with weapons are identified, the red-flag law is set up to get the gun out of circulation but return it to the owner as soon as his or her personal problem is resolved.

Given this approach, we should not be surprised about the burdens placed on the prosecutor. These burdens are daunting: The prosecutor must satisfy a high standard of proof, comply with tight deadlines and might then face repeated efforts to unwind the seizure. Meanwhile, the prosecutor lacks authority to report the seizure to the federal officials doing background checks until a judge has ruled after a hearing.

These burdens could be removed or reduced by the General Assembly. This would restore a more reasonable balance between safety and gun rights. But to do this would come at the price of offending supporters of the culture of the gun.

Many members of the Republican supermajority have no interest in this. They are in fear of the anger of the NRA and its supporters. They are silent about revising the weak red-flag law but are quick to criticize the prosecutors they have hamstrung. They continue to ignore the fact that the red-flag law as written is more likely to reduce suicides than mass shootings. It facilitates family interventions but is not up to dealing with mass shootings.

Let’s look for a more likely solution to the problem of mass shootings: Ban the sale of assault weapons. This won’t put an end to gun violence but could well limit the number of casualties.

Note that this suggestion recognizes it is not just personal failings that lead to mass shootings. Access to a weapon designed for killing humans in numbers is a key part of the problem.

The culture of the gun ignores, even denies, this point. This leads to the view that we can impose temporary limits on a few people, but none on the very weapons that let them kill in numbers. We could restrict use of these weapons to shooting ranges. This should satisfy those who get a thrill from shooting.

What if Indiana were to strengthen the red-flag law and move on to banning the sale of assault weapons? Indiana would be a leader for once.•


DeLaney, an Indianapolis attorney, is a Democrat representing the 86th District in the Indiana House of Representatives. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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4 thoughts on “Ed DeLaney: America’s gun culture prevents real change

  1. Rep DeLaney..would you please define specifically what is your definition of an “assault weapon”. Is the look of the weapon, the design, the caliber, the capacity, the make, the model, the color or what? Your broad use of the term attempts to define how it is used not what it is. This makes no sense since every weapon from slingshots to hand grenades can be used to injure people. As an attorney and legislator you should be very aware that “details matter”.

  2. I find this article disturbing in it gross generalizations and assumptions. And, while stating that he wants to look at the Red Flag law as a “litmus test”, he spends very little effort before making his immediate turn to blaming the gun.

    We aren’t sure what type as Gary points out. Many things can be used as assault weapons as Brian points out.

    My primary concern is the turning of the language since the other commenting gentlemen have covered the other two issues very well. So, my attention turns to this sinister sounding “culture of the gun”. While making it sound like a cult, the congressman ignores that the gun culture is the American culture. It is a foundational right. It was #2 of the amendments required to get this constitution accepted by the states. But, it appears that the Congressman feels this culture makes things “out of balance”. If he feels it does, how does he plan to live up to his oath to protect and defend the Constitution.