Rep. Susan Brooks: Bill would remove guns from those who pose a threat
As we reflect on National Police Week, which ended Saturday, let’s provide our law enforcement across the country every tool possible to prevent senseless acts of gun violence from harming or claiming the lives of innocent people, including our law enforcement officers.
Children are frequently asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer for Timothy “Jake” Laird from Noblesville was always the same. He dreamed of becoming a police officer.
Laird’s dream was realized on March 6, 2000, when he became a police officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD). But four years later, his dream unexpectedly turned into a nightmare. On August 18, 2004, Laird was shot and killed on duty, the first line-of-duty death for the IMPD in 27 years.
Sadly, with common-sense laws, Laird’s death could have been prevented.
On that early morning in 2004, when responding to a scene where a man who struggled with mental illness shot and killed his mother and continued on a shooting rampage in his neighborhood, Laird was killed, and four other police officers were shot. It was later revealed that this man was previously medically detained for being possibly dangerous on an Indiana Emergency Detention order and his firearms were taken by law enforcement. Upon his release from detention, he requested the return of his firearms. Despite law enforcement’s significant concerns about the risk he continued to pose to himself and others, at that time, IMPD had no legal way to retain his firearms.
In response, the Indiana General Assembly passed the Jake Laird Law in 2005, almost unanimously, which was signed into law by then Gov. Mitch Daniels. This law enables law enforcement to remove and retain firearms from individuals who are determined to be a danger to themselves or others, while ensuring due process under the law. A number of states across the country are considering similar measures or have similar “red flag” laws already in place, including Florida, which passed their law a year ago after the shooting in Parkland.
Data gathered by the FBI from 2000-2016 indicates active shooter incidents are on the rise, with many shooters showing signs of mental illness, and nearly a quarter of the incidents occurring at schools. Since the enactment of the Jake Laird Law in Indiana, it has been used more than 700 times in Indianapolis alone. A study of the law’s implementation found it is used primarily in response to individuals who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, through reported domestic violence situations or attempted suicides.
We know this Hoosier common-sense bill is working, so I re-introduced with my colleague Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) who represents Parkland, as well as Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), our gun violence reduction bill, the Jake Laird Act of 2019. This bill provides grants to states to enact laws substantially similar to Indiana’s Jake Laird Law and equips our police officers with training and additional tools to deescalate life-threatening crisis situations.
Our legislation ensures due process and supports the temporary removal and retention of firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or society, until the court, within 21 days of the firearm being retained, determines if the individual is a danger to themselves or others. If the court rules the individual is not a danger to themselves or others, their firearms will be swiftly returned.
Indiana will never forget the pain we felt when we lost Officer Jake Laird. This bill is a fitting tribute to a man who lived to serve his community and its citizens. Now, we must work to get it passed and signed into law.
Officer Jake Laird and Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Pickett, whose name was just added to the National Police Memorial, were two heroes who protected our communities and paid the ultimate sacrifice for us. It’s past time for our nation to adopt laws like Indiana’s Jake Laird Law that will keep our law enforcement and citizens safer.