By Bryan Wells
INDIANAPOLIS– Officer Timothy “Jake” Laird’s mother got a call nearly 15 years ago that no one would want to receive. Her son had been killed in a shootout with a man who never should have had a gun in the first place.
Debbie Laird, and Indiana lawmakers, thought they had addressed the issue with a 2005 law that became known as Jake Laird’s Law, allowing police to temporarily confiscate weapons from certain people. Her son, an Indianapolis police officer, had been killed by a man five months after police had been forced to return weapons that they had earlier seized from him.
Mother of slain police officer Jake Laird, Debbie Laird, visited the State House Wednesday to support House Bill 1651. Photo by Bryan Wells, TheStatehouseFile.com
Wednesday, she came to the Indiana Statehouse to support a bill meant to plug a gap that law enforcement has identified with that law. The goal: Keeping firearms out of the hands of individuals that are deemed dangerous based on past criminal records and who have the potential to harm themselves or someone else.
House Bill 1651, Laird told the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee Wednesday, “is just not about protecting police officers. It’s about creating safeguards to protect people like you and your family.”
Rep. Donna Schaibley, R- Carmel, introduced HB 1651 to tighten Jake Laird’s Law. Schaibley said that Indiana State Police had believed that under it, they had the right to send the names of individuals deemed dangerous to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System – known as NICS.
But after the devastating shooting a year ago at a Parkland, Fl., high school, the Federal Bureau of Investigation told the state that the current law actually didn’t authorize that.
“Several weeks after Parkland, the FBI contacted our state police and told them they did not have the right to submit those names of individuals to NICS system because our statute did not say the individual could not purchase or possess and did not clearly state that those names should be submitted to the NICS system,” Schaibley said.
HB 1651, she said, “allows the state police, after the person has been found to be dangerous by a court, to submit those names to the NICS system so this person cannot purchase firearms.”
The bill also allows sets up court procedures for determining whether a person is dangerous, and for appealing that designation. And it makes it a felony for that person to have a firearm or for someone to give or sell the firearm to that individual.
The bill passed the committee 12-0 and now goes to the full House for debate.
Bryan Wells is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.