RILEY EUBANKS, Ball State University

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that would fund training for teachers and other school employees to keep and justifiably use a firearm on school grounds passed out of a state Senate committee Wednesday.

House Bill 1253 would expand on the already existing law that allows school corporations to choose whether guns can be stored and used on school grounds.

Currently, three school corporations in Indiana allow guns in school, all of which are rural districts who have concerns over police response time to a hypothetical active shooter situation.

The bill is a part of a slew of legislation designed to make schools safer in light of the school shootings in Noblesville and Richmond last year.

State law does not require teachers or any school employees to undergo firearms training. For those who do desire training, they have to undergo physiological screening that would determine whether they can handle a firearm during a school shooting.

The optional training program would be a 48-hour course that encompasses first aid and marksmanship, among other subjects, and replicates the active shooter training police officers go through.

“If they take these courses, they are better trained than any rookie graduate from a law enforcement academy,” said Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, the bill’s author, in the same Senate committee last week.

The bill requires the gun to be stored, either in the classroom or in another location, and out of the reach of students.

The bill was opposed by the Indiana State Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the two Democratic Senators who were present at the bill’s hearing in the Senate Education and Career Development Committee.

Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, introduced two failed amendments, one of which would have required parents with children at home to lock up their guns.

“We haven’t talked about how to keep guns from children,” Stoops said to the committee.

Stoops noted that the vast majority of school shootings are from other students who go to the school with a gun they got from home.

In addition, Stoops said young people who commit suicide often use a parent’s gun to shoot themselves. Stoops’ failed “safe storage” amendment, an idea which he said is opposed by the National Rifle Association, would hold adults criminally responsible for not locking up their guns.

The amendment failed 8-2 and was opposed by every Republican on the committee. The bill, however, passed 8-2 and was opposed by the two Democrats, Stoops and Eddie Melton, D-Gary.

Melton explained his concerns with the bill during his dissenting vote, saying that the short amount of training hours and a lack of continuous training and definitive funding for the program was the reason for his no vote.

“We’re expecting teachers to go from reading ‘Cat in the Hat’ to being trained, tactical marksmen,” Melton said. The bill now moves on to the Senate floor for future deliberation and a likely vote.

© 2019 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.