By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – Were the two weekend massacres that killed at least 30 Americans the elusive tipping point when it comes to gun reforms? It’s far too early to tell, but what’s occurred since Sunday seems different in a political sense from previous shootings in Virginia Beach, Pittsburgh, Parkland, Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Washington Navy Yard, Sandy Hook and dozens of other single-digit death-toll shootings in recent years.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, whose district includes Dayton, came out for banning assault weapons and for red flag laws. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was preparing to propose state gun reforms.

In Indiana, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said, “Any bipartisan legislation needs to include stronger background checks, red flag laws known as extreme risk protection orders that address mental illness, commonsense solutions that complement the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks.”

U.S. Sen. Todd Young observed, “Clearly we have multiple problems in this country – problems of hate, social alienation, and the devaluing of human life – and we’re going to have to work together as a nation to address these challenges. I think Indiana has done a good job with respect to our red flag law and that’s something that needs to be part of the conversation moving forward across the country.” 

Young noted that in the last Congress, he co-sponsored and voted to enact the Fix NICS Act to improve criminal background checks, and the STOP School Violence Act to help improve school safety infrastructure, resources, and procedures. “President Trump signed these bills into law in March 2018,” Young said. Young also cosponsored the School Safety & Mental Health Services Improvement Act to improve mental health services for youth, and the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, which imposes more severe penalties on individuals who attempt to illegally procure firearms and commissions a study on the causes of mass shootings.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans “are prepared to do our part” and added, “Only serious, bipartisan, bicameral efforts will enable us to continue this important work and produce further legislation that can pass the Senate, pass the House, and earn the president’s signature.”

Before departing for Dayton on Wednesday, President Trump accused his opponents of “looking for political gain” by tying his comments to the shooting in Texas and insisted he would like to “stay out of the political fray,” though he appeared to connect the Dayton massacre to a shooter with ties to Antifa. He later appeared to say he was for expanded background checks that has already passed the House. But the Washington Post reported today: NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre spoke with Trump on Tuesday after the president expressed support for a background check bill and told him it would not be popular among Trump’s supporters, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss internal talks. LaPierre also argued against the bill’s merits, the officials said.

A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found nearly 70% of all voters would back an assault weapon ban. Support for an assault-weapons ban was higher, at 86%, among Democrats, who have been pushing for new restrictions on the firearms. The poll found that 55% of GOP voters were comfortable with banning assault weapons, 54% said they would support stricter gun laws more generally, and 90% said they would back universal background checks for gun sales.

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks observed, “The violence this weekend was perpetrated by extremists from both sides of the political spectrum. It’s clear that those using these tragedies to attack @potus and others are shortsighted. It’s time to put politics aside, come together and address this evil with determination.” In a second tweet, Banks said, “I deployed to Afghanistan as a response to radical Islamic terrorism. We now face a different enemy that has also emerged from the shadows but demands the same focus and determination to root out and destroy. #WhiteSupremacistTerrorism should be named, targeted and defeated.” 

U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks said, “Shootings in malls, bars, festivals, places of worship, schools or any other place are horrifically tragic, happening far too often, and must stop. We must and can do more to prevent these senseless acts of violence. Red flag laws, like Indiana’s Jake Laird Law, save lives while ensuring due process rights. It’s past time for Congress to act!” 

WTHR-TV polled the congressional delegation and reported that U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski, Larry Bucshon and Greg Pence did not respond to specific questions about potential reforms, including expanded background checks. U.S. Reps. Jim Banks, Trey Hollingsworth and Democrat Pete Visclosky did not respond to the inquiries.

Bucshon and Brooks will be worth watching. Bucshon has scheduled town hall sessions in Evansville on Aug. 19, Aug. 20 in Linton, Aug. 21 in Terre Haute, and Aug. 22 in Washington, Ind. Brooks represents the one Indiana district that has been the scene of a recent school shooting, at West Middle School in Noblesville in 2018. She is also a lame duck and might vote beyond party line stances.

The emerging 5th CD race left in her void found only Democrat Christina Hale weighing in. “The tragedies this weekend in Texas and Ohio are becoming all too commonplace in our country, and we can’t let that happen. We can’t let hateful forces divide and destroy our United States and kill innocent people,” Hale (pictured) said. ”I stand with the majority of Americans who agree that it’s time for common sense reforms to make our communities safe.”

Her Democratic primary opponent, Dee Thornton, did not release a statement. Neither has Micah Beckwith, the only Republican who has filed an exploratory committee with the FEC.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Democratic presidential campaign proposed a plan that would provide $1 billion to augment law enforcement and intelligence efforts to address white nationalism, universal background checks, closing loopholes in background checks, building a national gun licensing system, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, national red flag laws, and funding federal research on gun violence.

But in the General Assembly, there is yet to be a discernible movement toward gun reforms, though Indiana already has a red flag law on the books.

State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, reacted to Buttigieg’s proposals, saying, “What a dangerous, pandering oath-breaking fool of a tyrant he’s showing himself to be! Because ‘laws’ work so well in keeping people from murdering people now, doing drugs, stopping kids under 21 from drinking and keeping bad people from doing bad things. I’m not saying to not have laws, but LAWS DO NOT STOP BEHAVIOR! They only criminalize an action and assign a level of punishment. The only thing this dangerous level of thinking will do is criminalize good innocent people and make them defenseless against people that won’t follow these laws. This is what tyrants are made of.”

As for the gubernatorial race, Democrat Woody Myers said in the HPI Interview (page 1) that it will take an array of coordinated local, state and federal efforts to properly address the problem. He also blamed President Trump for the incendiary rhetoric. 

Indiana Public Media reported that Gov. Eric Holcomb “dodged” questions on whether President Trump’s rhetoric played a role in the massacres. IPM’s Brandon Smith reported: The El Paso shooting suspect’s racist screed, posted online before the shooting, used language similar to that regularly espoused by President Trump. But Holcomb sidestepped questions about whether Trump is part of the problem. “Anyone that claims to have a simple solution to a very complex behavioral problem is simply misleading you,” Holcomb said.

Indiana Democrats noted that Holcomb “stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Rep. Lucas on the NRA Convention stage. In a Monday press released, Democrats said, “Today, Rep. Lucas took a strong stance against universal background checks on social media. Meanwhile, Holcomb hasn’t said much, he hasn’t even tweeted offering condolences for a pair of mass shootings this weekend. The near-complete silence is in line with the governor’s approach to gun reform. Holcomb danced around a question about taking steps to prevent mass shootings in an interview in December. He instead pivoted to a focus on mental health to prevent further violence. He later buckled to ultra-conservative lobbyists’ efforts to remove any mention of mental health from a school safety bill.”

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said, “The Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus has fought for years to close firearm sale loopholes, ban bump stocks and raise the purchasing age to no avail amidst the supermajority. Lives are quite literally on the line. Simple access to firearms capable of mass carnage must come to an end. The time for all lawmakers to acknowledge this and protect all our citizens is far overdue. Action should not wait until it is our own brother’s or sister’s or cousin’s or grandkid’s name in the headlines. The time to act is now.”

Congress

5th CD: Ballard won’t run

Former Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard won’t be seeking the 5th CD Republican nomination. “During the past few weeks I have been heartened by the kind words of encouragement to run for Indiana’s 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Ballard said last Thursday. “While Winnie and I have decided to downsize, and move to Hamilton County as part of that process, I will not be running for Congress. I’m grateful for the expressions of support and I look forward to continue to serve my community, state, and nation in other ways.” Thus far only Rev. Micah Beckwith of Noblesville has filed FEC paperwork to run for the Republican nomination. Republicans that appear to be exploring a bid include former state senator Mike Delph, former legislator Steve Braun, State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, Fishers Deputy Mayor Leah McGrath, and State Sens. John Ruckelshaus and Victoria Spartz.
Delph acting like a candidate

Former senator Delph is looking like a candidate for Congress. Asked if he was running by HPI on Wednesday, Delph tweeted: “Enjoyed visiting w my friends with the Grant County Republican Party. Thank you US Senator Todd Young for your team approach, State Rep. Vermillion, and friends. Important municipal races this November 2019.…” Once Delph enters, it sets up a showdown with Beckwith for the social conservative wing of the GOP.

Beckwith kickoff Aug. 15

The Beckwith For Congress kick-off party will take place at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15 at White Willow Farms. There will be special guest Comedian Stacy Corwin and a keynote from former congressman Marlin Stutzman. 

Presidential

Buttigieg adds more Obama staffers

Hari Sevugan, a well-known Democratic operative, has joined Pete Buttigieg’s campaign as deputy campaign manager for brand and media, Axios has learned. Sevugan will oversee how the mayor’s message is integrated throughout the campaign.  He was a senior spokesperson for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and later the DNC’s national press secretary. The Buttigieg staff has grown to 250, from about 40 when he announced four months ago, in mid-April. And he plans to keep hiring. Sevugan will be based in the campaign’s Chicago office. The mayor’s headquarters is in South Bend, Ind., where he has outgrown his space twice, and is now in his third location, and he has staff in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Other big recent Buttigieg hires: Jess O’Connell as senior strategist, Michael Halle as senior adviser, Larry Grisolano and John Del Cecato of AKPD Media and Katie Connolly of Benenson Strategy Group. They join campaign manager Mike Schmuhl, communications adviser Lis Smith and national press secretary Chris Meagher