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The Journal Gazette

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019 1:00 am

General assembly

Armed teacher bill OK'd

Requires training, testing

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – All teachers authorized to carry guns in school would be forced to first undergo a personality screening and take firearms training under a bill that passed the Senate 32-14 on Tuesday.

School districts already can allow teachers to carry under state law. But House Bill 1253 goes another step and requires 38 hours of specialized weapons training to do so, as well as recurring training each year.

The personality inventory is meant to weed out teachers or staffers who might not have the right temperament to carry a firearm in school.

“A vote against this bill is a vote for allowing teachers to carry guns in school without proper training,” said Sen. Chris Garten, R-Charlestown.

But Democrats focused on rethinking whether to allow guns in schools at all. At least three districts have authorized guns in schools, including Jay County.

“There should never be a gun in a classroom, never,” said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. “This is a bad bill. We are going to be on the wrong side of history.”

Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, asked his colleagues to think about the possibility of a student overpowering a teacher and wrestling the gun away. Or teachers having to shoot students they have taught all year.

Several Democrats said not enough has been done on mental health and access to guns by youth.

Six Republicans joined Democrats to oppose the measure. All northeast Indiana senators voted yes.

The bill now goes to conference committee, because the House author doesn't support the training mandate.

The Senate also approved a second bill Tuesday that would allow guns to be carried at churches that are connected to schools. Currently, state law prohibits this. The bill allows the owner of the property to decide whether guns are allowed.

House Bill 1651 also strengthens current provisions allowing police to take guns away from those considered to be dangerous.

And the state's four-year firearms permit would expand to five years, with a more stringent initial background check. But Hoosiers with this permit would be exempt from background checks during the five-year period when purchasing from a gun dealer. The cost of that license also is being eliminated.

That measure passed 36-10 and likely heads to conference committee. All area senators supported it.

nkelly@jg.net