Indiana "blew it" by not enforcing a gun ban against a man who was armed when he was arrested in California while traveling to a gay pride event, a state Democratic lawmaker said Tuesday while advocating for stricter gun controls.
James Wesley Howell, 20, was ordered in April to forfeit all firearms under the terms of his probation on a misdemeanor intimidation conviction, for allegedly pulling a gun and making threats against a neighbor in southern Indiana.
But it's unclear whether Howell obtained the three assault rifles found on him in Los Angeles on June 12 after the judge's order or whether he had them before it was issued, state Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis said during a news conference outside of the Statehouse.
"Every step of the way we blew it," said DeLaney, who is up for re-election in November and said he'll propose legislation for the GOP-dominated General Assembly to consider next session.
Howell, who is from Jeffersonville, Indiana, and faces weapons and ammunition charges, was arrested in Santa Monica, California, hours after the deadly attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He also faces a child molestation charge in Indiana — allegations a local prosecutor said apparently spurred his cross-country journey to Los Angeles.
Clark County chief probation officer James Hayden has told The Associated Press that probation officials had rated Howell a low-level offender in the misdemeanor intimidation charge, and that a probation officer met with him in May, but had yet to schedule an in-home visit by the time Howell made it to California.
Hayden did not immediately respond to messages left Tuesday seeking comment on DeLaney's remarks.
Police found in Howell's car a loaded assault rifle with magazines rigged to allow 60 shots to be fired in quick succession and 15 pounds of chemicals mixed and ready to explode. He also had two other loaded rifles, ammunition, a stun gun, a buck knife and a security badge.
DeLaney said he wants to introduce bills that would ban large ammunition clips and "automatic military-type" weapons, as well as increase funding for county probation departments in light of recent changes in state sentencing laws that are directing more people to probation and community corrections programs rather than jail or prison.