INDIANAPOLIS — Controversial legislation allowing firearms training for teachers passed the Senate on Tuesday.
"We're just trying to prevent more children from being harmed and our staff from being harmed to do what we're doing with this piece of legislation," Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, who sponsored the bill, said.
"We're not just arming teachers. We're allowing law-abiding citizens to practice their Second Amendment rights," said state Sen. Chris Garten, R-Charlestown.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed House Bill 1253 with a 32-14 vote. The bill, authored by Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, passed the House 72-25 in February. Amendments were added by the Senate and face concurrence by the House before heading to the governor's desk. The General Assembly session is set to end next week.
Also under the bill, schools conducting training drills cannot fire projectiles at employees without an employee consenting in writing. Trainers cannot conduct drills involving the firing of any projectiles if students are involved in the drill.
"We are merely providing the guardrails that we think we need to have in place should school corporations continue to do this practice of deploying firearms throughout the school buildings and it's done for purposes of protecting kids and protecting staff from folks who come into the building and want nothing to do but to do harm to individuals and kill people," Holdman said.
The bill was amended in the Senate and now allows school districts to apply for grants to defray the costs of providing specialized weapon training to school employees. The required 38 hours of training is to include one hour of the mental health components in taking another person's life and the effects of going through traumatic events.
Senate Democrats tried to kill the bill by stressing that allowing firearms in classrooms could injure students and school employees.
"It is assumed that a teacher whose job is to teach children will somehow be able to take on the calculated persona needed to track and shoot another human being," Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said. "Also it is assumed that in the blink of an eye during an incredibly stressful, noisy and chaotic environment that a teacher will be able to instantly transition from reading 'Cat in the Hat' to becoming a skilled security force to take out someone."
There is no provision in the bill offering immunity to a teacher who accidentally shoots a student. Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, asked Holdman if that element could lead to criminal charges being filed against a teacher.
"I think that would be very difficult, as a former prosecutor," Holdman said. "I don't know that you'd ever be able to bring murder charges against an individual who is attempting to protect other individuals from harm."
Stoops then asked Holdman if a teacher who accidentally shoots and kills a student could face a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
"I'm not even sure about involuntary manslaughter. I'm not even sure the individual would be charged at all," Holdman said.
Liability insurance would be covered by a school district's risk coverage, Holdman said.
On March 25, the Senate honored Jason Seaman, a science teacher at Noblesville West Middle School, and public safety officers who responded to a school shooting last May. Seaman survived being shot three times.
The honor was presented through Senate Concurrent Resolution 43, authored by Sen. Victoria Spartz, R-Noblesville. Seaman was shot three times in his abdomen, hip and forearm.
"The bravery and courage shown by Mr. Seaman and so many other people on that terrifying day is truly inspirational," Spartz said. "I am proud of you, your community is proud of you, and your state is proud of you. Thank you for all you did to protect and serve our NWMS students and staff."