INDIANAPOLIS -- A controversial legislative bill that would have allowed firearms to be carried on school grounds was gutted by amendment Monday in the State House Education Committee.
As authored, House Bill 1253 would have eliminated all Indiana schools as gun-free zones, a measure strongly criticized by the Indiana State Teachers Association and state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick.
Although amended, the bill moved out of committee and now goes to the House floor. The bill now allows for an optional 40-hour training program for any employee to learn to use handguns in schools, but only if a school corporation allows such use.
The bill also would have provided immunity from prosecution for so-called justified use of force on school property.
Vague language in the bill created the possibility for students to carry firearms at school.
McCormick tweeted concerns about the bill Thursday: “This puts students & staff at risk: HB 1253 allows anyone w/ a gun license (including students) to bring a gun to school, on buses, & at events. This doesn’t make schs safer!”
Less than 24 hours after the tweet, the proposed amendment was publicly released.
McCormick sent a follow-up tweet Friday stating her appreciation for the amendment, saying “Amendment strikes the worst part of the bill & reduces the impact of the original bill to language regarding the use of tax dollars to pay for any sch. employee to be trained in firearm usage. Concerning but not alarming.”
The amendment passed 11-2.
State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, introduced the bill and fielded testimony that was largely in opposition to the proposed law for nearly two hours. What was left of the bill after it was amended is a plan to provide state funds for volunteer training for teachers and other school employees who are allowed to carry firearms on school property.
“Teachers and staff are the true first responders,” said Lucas, who cited police response times for school mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, as reasons for the alarming amount of casualties.
Teachers "are the ones that we need to enable and train to be able to react in a situation such as this,” Lucas added.
The program is modeled after the active shooter training police officers receive.
Current law leaves the decision to allow guns to individual school corporations. So far, three school districts in the state allow their teachers to have guns in the classroom. All are rural school districts where there's concern that police would not be able to respond quickly to a school shooting.
“We did not make this decision lightly,” said Jay School Corp. Superintendent Jeremy Gully, who leads one of those districts. “In our rural school district, this is the last line of defense to protect innocent life and stop the carnage.”
The bill is one of a slew designed to strengthen school safety in light of school shootings last year in Richmond and Noblesville.