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Indiana moves closer to state-funded teacher gun training

Republican Rep. Jim Lucas speaks before state House lawmakers about his bill, which would make state funding available for teachers seeking firearms training, at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Arleigh Rodgers)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana state lawmakers are inching closer to sending the state’s Republican governor a bill that would create a state-funded handgun training program available for teachers, something critics have said could wrongly increase the number of guns in schools.

Final approval from the state Senate is expected later in the day. Efforts by Indiana lawmakers to offer additional training failed in recent years amid opposition from both gun-rights advocates, who said training mandates would overstep local control, and gun-control proponents, who argued against steps they see as arming teachers.

Supporters have also said the 40 hours of optional training could help teachers learn how to defend themselves and students if needed, especially in situations with an active shooter.

“This is not a solution, and there are no guarantees,” GOP Rep. Jim Lucas, the bill’s author, said before the 72-20 vote. “This is a tool that people can choose to opt into.”

If State senators approve the bill, the legislation would go to the state’s Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. The House bill advanced earlier this month amid teachers’ objections that having additional guns in schools would worsen school safety.

Democratic Rep. Maureen Bauer joined Republicans in voting for the bill, saying it could “prevent accidental shootings or children from being the next school shooter” because of a provision in it that requires the Department of Education and Indiana State Police to send parents a letter outlining how to safely possess and store a firearm in their house away from their children.

All proposed training would be voluntary and paid for by the state. State law currently allows school districts to permit teachers to be armed, but no training is mandated.

Schools could also apply for such funding in the event of a school shooting “to cover the costs of counseling” for students, teachers and other school employees, the bill states.

In the previous legislative session, Indiana lawmakers repealed a permit requirement for those carrying a gun in public. All residents age 18 or older — except those with a felony conviction, who face a restraining order or have a dangerous mental illness — can carry a handgun in public.

Democratic Rep. Tonya Pfaff, a teacher in Terre Haute, said on Wednesday that the handgun training bill “will not stop school shootings.”

“Teachers just want to teach,” she said. “Let us.”