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Saturday, February 01, 2020 1:00 am

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State's efforts to arm teachers ramp up

An effort to place “guardrails” on Indiana law authorizing teachers to carry guns is advancing in the General Assembly's short session, but not without passionate pleas from students, parents and others arguing that guns should never have been allowed in the first place.

Senate Bill 263, co-authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, passed out of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee last week on a 10-2 vote. It requires a minimum of 40 hours of firearms training for a teacher or staff member to carry a gun in school, plus eight hours of annual training to remain eligible.  A psychological test would also be required.

“I understand there are people who are opposed to guns in schools,” he said. “But there are guns in schools legally now. What this does is put guardrails on those guns.”

Holdman said the bill was an answer to those who complained about the lack of requirements, noting it had been difficult to pass because of differences with the author of the House version, Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour. Holdman allowed the bill to die last year because of those differences.

The bill's co-author, Sen. Chris Garten, R-Charlestown, said a no vote was “a vote to continue to allow untrained teachers to carry guns in our schools and in our classrooms.”

A survey by the Indiana School Boards Association found only five school corporations have adopted policies allowing teachers/administrators to carry firearms in schools.

Each of those districts has also adopted a policy requiring firearms training.

Opponents of the bill argued the legislation would encourage more districts to arm teachers.

“Senate Bill 263 would further normalize the dangerous policy of arming teachers,” said Jennifer Haan, a parent, former teacher and member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in Indiana. “The best potential for avoiding a school shooting is to keep kids from accessing guns in the first place by implementing safe storage laws. Seventy-eight percent of school shooters under the age of 18 obtained a gun from their homes or the homes of relatives or friends.”

Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, voted against the bill.

“The more guns you have in schools, the more chance those guns are going to be used,” he told the committee. 

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