Officer's death renews calls for tougher gun crime penalties

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The death of Indianapolis Metro Police Officer Perry Renn is leading many people to demand action. There's a new call for tougher sentences for those who use guns in violent crimes.

Renn was murdered in an alley off 34th and Forest Manor Saturday night. A round from a high-powered rifle penetrated his bullet-resistant vest. Major Davis, Jr., 25, faces a preliminary charge of murder in connection with Renn's death. Davis himself remains in critical condition after the shootout.

"He was a father figure," Rev. Malachi Walker said of Renn.

Walker has devoted much of his life to keeping children from growing into criminals. Monday, he led a vigil in the alley where Renn was murdered.

"If you are caught with a gun, penalties need to be doubled. It shouldn't be ten and you do five," Walker said.

The crime is renewing the call among some lawmakers for mandatory prison terms for crimes committed with a weapon. Indianapolis public safety officials insist they keep arresting the same criminals. They believe putting them in prison longer will reduce shootings and homicides.

The proposal was tried and failed at the Indiana Statehouse this year.

Looking at the increasing amount of violence here and in other Indiana communities, Sen. Jim Merritt says it is time for the state to take extreme measures.

"This being in jail for two years and getting out because of all the different good time served, that has to end. We have to have a mandatory sentence. This is to send a message also to the prosecutors and the judges that they are not in control. It is state law that is in control and I will continue to press for the 20 years. first of all the criminals will be in jail and second of all people will feel safe," said Merritt.

But Merritt admits a mandatory 20 years for gun crimes will be a tough sell to many lawmakers.

Senate Pro Tem David Long says it is something to be considered, but he says there are a lot of pieces to the problem of increasing violence, including funding for law enforcement, mentorship programs for youth and other programs.

"When you are looking at the recent outbreak in violence we've seen, you ought to look for any and all solutions out there," Long said.

That resonates with Walker and other ministers who are struggling to change young hearts and minds. Their programs provide discipline, role models and guidance to hundreds of inner city young people - some as young as eight years old.

"I say this so many times, that it is important we have to start reaching these kids at a very young age, especially those who don't have a father figure raising them up," Walker said.

Get them young and stay with them, he says, and hopefully the will stay out of trouble.

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