State Rep: Indiana 'blew it' in James Howell case
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – An Indiana lawmaker is calling for tougher gun laws following the arrest of a Southern Indiana man in California.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday morning on the Indiana statehouse lawn, State Rep. Ed DeLaney said the state “blew it” when it failed to effectively enforce a gun ban against James Wesley Howell.
Santa Monica Police arrested Howell earlier this month as he was driving to a pride celebration in Los Angeles. The 20-year-old had three assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and bomb making materials in his car, according to investigators.
Court documents show he was banned from having firearms. Howell, who most recently lived in Jeffersonville, was on probation in Clark County for a 2015 intimidation case. As part of his probation, Howell was ordered to forfeit all weapons -- an order that was to be enforced by the Clark County probation department.
“No one goes to his house to get the weapons,” DeLaney said. “I don’t know whether all those guns he had in California were old guns that he had months earlier, that he admitted to having, or if they were new guns. I don’t know that because we made the whole system fall apart. Every step of the way we blew it.”
Court documents uncovered by WHAS11 show a Louisville judge also banned Howell from having guns as he awaited trial for an incident captured by an LMPD officer's dashboard camera. The video reportedly shows Howell fleeing from police during a traffic stop, causing the officer to sustain minor injuries. Howell was indicted for the incident in April 2016. As part of a release agreement, the judge ordered Howell to give up his guns. Since the arrest in California, the Commonwealth’s attorney has issued a warrant for Howell’s arrest.
“His probation can’t be violated even though he commits crimes in Kentucky and Indiana. Why is that? Because we don’t take guns seriously,” DeLaney suggested.
The Indianapolis Democrat laid out his proposal for tighter gun laws saying, “the second amendment is not the immaculate conception.” DeLaney vowed to propose new gun legislation during the 2017 legislative session banning large ammunition clips and assault weapons. He suggested the state should also require universal background checks for anyone buying firearms.
“The Republicans are afraid that they’re going to lose some votes in a primary. Well they’ve got to choose between death and primary,” DeLaney said.
DeLaney said Howell’s case shows the need for adequately funded probation programs, adding that lawmakers need to appropriate substantial funding to offices throughout the state to ensure probation violations can be effectively tracked and enforced.