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Indianapolis Pastor 'Angry' and 'Bewildered' By City's Gun Violence


As we heard, last night's shooting was the latest violent incident in a difficult year for Indianapolis. 2020 set a record for homicides in the city. The attack at FedEx was the city's third mass shooting this year so far. To hear how that is affecting people in Indianapolis, we're joined now by Charles Harrison. He's a senior pastor at Barnes United Methodist Church and the president of the Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition, a gun violence prevention group.


CHARLES HARRISON: Hello. How you doing?

CHANG: I'm all right. You know, I just wanted to ask you first, what went through your mind when you saw the news of the FedEx shooting?

HARRISON: Oh, I was probably in shock, angry, just bewildered as to what can we do to stop this daily violence that we're seeing in Indianapolis. And, you know, it just doesn't seem to get any better. And I know there's just a lot of frustration, you know, in the city right now. You know, people are wondering, when is this all going to end and get better? There doesn't seem to be any place that is safe anymore in the city.

CHANG: Well, about this recent increase in gun violence, can you talk about what that's been feeling like at the neighborhood level? Like, how has it been weighing on people in your community, people in your congregation? What kinds of things are you hearing?

HARRISON: Well, you know, I think people are frightened, particularly people who tend to live in neighborhoods that traditionally have had a lot of violence. But then you hear other people who talk about how the violence is spreading. So it used to be concentrated in certain hot spot areas in the city, but now it seems to be everywhere. I have never seen, you know, this level of concern and fear like I'm seeing right now in the city.

CHANG: Yeah. I know that you have talked about wear and tear on people in Indianapolis. Can you talk about that? How are you seeing that among the people in your community?

HARRISON: Well, it is a constant conversation now that people are having, you know, about the violence. You see more and more people are talking about getting guns. And you never heard people talk about that. They are afraid of being robbed or someone may come in their home or just going to their car. So you hear people talk about that now that you've never heard that before.

CHANG: Right. Well, you spend a lot of time thinking about gun violence, its impact on communities and how to prevent it. So I am wondering, from your perspective, what do you think is driving this spike in shootings in your city?

HARRISON: I think there are several driving forces in the violence, you know, in Indianapolis. And certainly, traditionally there's always been the drug trafficking, but we have seen an escalation in domestic violence, and certainly interpersonal conflicts is leading to a lot more violence that we are seeing, you know, in the city. We just recently had a domestic violence mass shooting where a young man ended up shooting his parents and siblings. And we're seeing those kind of things this year that we have not seen in the past. So that's really concerning to us. Are - is there something going on out there and a trend that we haven't gotten our arms around that we really need to address as a community and as a society?

CHANG: Well, what about more people acquiring guns? You mentioned that you've been observing that lately. Does that alarm you? And do you think the number of guns out there is further contributing to the rise in violence?

HARRISON: Oh, certainly I think the number of guns are contributing to the rise in violence. The easy access of these guns certainly has been a major factor. I think people are just so fearful right now and want to protect themselves that a lot of people who have never possessed guns are, you know, choosing to get guns. And particularly, we're seeing a rise among females. Certainly I'm concerned about that. But I understand people's concern about their own personal safety.

CHANG: Yeah.

Charles Harrison is the senior pastor at Barnes United Methodist Church and the president of the Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition, a gun violence prevention group. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

HARRISON: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
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