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The Family of FedEx Mass Shooter Warned Police About Him. How Did He Still Manage to Buy His Guns?

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Authorities in Indianapolis say the mother of Brandon Hole, the former FedEx employee who shot and killed eight people at a company facility last Thursday, called police in 2020 to say her son might commit “suicide by cop,” prompting them to seize his pump-action shotgun. But officials say they did not push for Hole to have a hearing under Indiana’s “red flag” law, which allows police or courts to seize guns from people who show warning signs of violence. “The very thing that the law is designed to prevent — going and buying a new gun — was not even ever sought,” says Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we look at how the mass shooting in Indianapolis is one of at least 150 mass shootings so far this year in the United States.

Authorities in Indianapolis said Monday the mother of Brandon Hole, the 19-year-old mass murderer in Indianapolis, the former worker at that FedEx facility who shot and killed eight other people there, called police last year — the mother called police to say her son might commit “suicide by cop,” prompting them to seize his pump-action shotgun. But officials say they did not push for Hole to have a hearing under Indiana’s “red flag” law, which allows police or courts to seize guns from people who show warning signs of violence. Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said authorities chose not to seek the hearing because they lacked enough time under the law to gather evidence about his mental state and faced the risk that Hole’s gun last year would be returned to him.

This comes as President Biden has ordered a series of executive actions on gun control, calling gun violence in the U.S. an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment.”

We go now to Nick Suplina, who is managing director for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety.

Nick, thanks for joining us. Can you start off by explaining this red flag law in Indiana? How is it possible that this young man had a gun taken from him, but then he gets to buy two more long guns legally?

NICK SUPLINA: Yeah, well, Amy, you know, it is a question we’re all asking ourselves after this tragedy. And, you know, a lot of the headlines coming out of this tragic incident are about the failure of the red flag laws or the failure of red flag laws generally. And it really isn’t. The red flag law never was used here, and, as you said, the prosecutor choosing not to go to court to take the next step in the process, which would be to file an application with the court, to make a showing that this man is a danger to himself or others. And at that time, if the court makes that finding, not only would the police be able to take any weapons in his possession, but he would also be added to a prohibited purchaser list. And so, the very thing that the law is designed to prevent — going and buying a new gun — was not even ever sought here. And he then went on to buy two semiautomatic assault rifles, middle of last year, and used them, to such deadly effect, in Indianapolis at the FedEx facility.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Nick, what do we know about why the prosecutor chose not to move forward with an application?

NICK SUPLINA: You know, we don’t know very much. The prosecutors pointed to the concern that perhaps the application doesn’t succeed. But that’s a tough pill to swallow, especially in the face of a tragedy like this. You have to use the laws, or else they will not work. We are, at Everytown, advocating in 50 states and the federal government for laws that can protect our country, protect our citizens and our communities, from gun violence. But they only work so well as the people who are tasked with implementing them. And so, to me, this is not a great excuse to point to deficiencies in the Indiana law, but rather a deficiency of action. And that’s what we need right now in this country, is action on gun safety.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, but Indiana does have, doesn’t it, some of the weakest gun laws in the country? What’s the age limit there for the purchase of guns? Because we’re talking here about a 19-year-old, right?

NICK SUPLINA: Yeah, Juan, that’s a great point. You know, there’s been a lot of focus, renewed focus, on the Indiana red flag law, but let’s not forget Indiana does have some of the weakest gun laws in the country. There is no prohibition on purchasing a firearm if you’re under the age of 21. There is no prohibition on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, as many other states have. And so, you know, the deficits in Indiana law are manifest here, and Indiana has trailed the rest of the country in terms of its gun violence prevention laws. And as we see frequently, the gun laws in Indiana are so weak that they have become a supply state for Illinois in cities like Chicago, where many of the guns recovered in crimes in Chicago started off in Indiana.

AMY GOODMAN: Nick, we only have 30 seconds, but we’re talking about a moment now where the NRA, the National Rifle Association, is completely hobbled. You have the mass American population, including NRA members, overwhelmingly for more gun control. Overwhelmingly. The only people who are stopping the legislation are the Republican senators in the U.S. Congress, the Republican senators. How is this possible at this moment? And how do you see getting around this? Twenty seconds.

NICK SUPLINA: Well, you know, the answer always for us in the gun violence prevention movement is fight, fight, fight. Join the fight. Text ”CHECKS” to 64433. Join that fight, because there is overwhelming support for sensible, sensible gun policies. And the GOP senators have lost all of their excuses for not standing with us and passing commonsense gun reform.

AMY GOODMAN: Nick Suplina, we want to thank you for being with us, managing director for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety.

And that does it for our show. Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Adriano Contreras. Our general manager, Julie Crosby; Becca Staley, our director. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Stay safe. Wear a mask.

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