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Bill to allow teachers to be armed passes Indiana House

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana lawmakers moved legislation, largely on party lines, to arm K-12 teachers in Indiana.

House Bill 1177 passed on Feb. 14, exactly five years to the day that a shooter killed 17 students at a high school in South Florida. The bill moves to the Indiana Senate for consideration.

“What we’ve seen in these incidents, time and time again is when the shooter comes in and starts shooting, when seconds count, the police are minutes away,” said bill sponsor Rep. Jim Lucas, of Seymour.

The program is voluntary and would be paid for through state funds already set aside for school security. Participants would have to undergo a psychological evaluation and firearms training similar to law enforcement officers.

“We designed this class that starts with firearms safety, weapon retention, and it goes quite extensively into shooter situations, scenarios range time,” Lucas said.

The idea is not new to Indiana. The Shelby Eastern School District has a program allowing teachers and staff to be armed. It paid for that program with a Homeland Security grant.

Indiana House Democrats criticized the bill for going too far.

“The Indiana GOP and gun lobby’s approach to gun violence is more guns. This haphazard policy is another sloppy solution that will only endanger more lives. Each day we refuse to take this problem seriously is another day that a Hoosier is at risk of dying in a school, church or grocery store. House Bill 1177 unfortunately passed the House this week. Hopefully my colleagues in the Senate have more sense than to continue pushing this bill through the legislative process.”

-House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Ft. Wayne

The Indiana State Teachers Association testified as “neutral” on the bill when it was heard in the House Education Committee. It opposed making the training mandatory for teachers.

“We do support the language in the bill that seeks to protect educators who are being asked to participate in active shooter trainings that include being shot with projectiles. The bill would require written warning and consent. This is an issue that occurred to several of our members, and we have been asking for this language for a few years now.

-ISTA Senior Public Affairs Advisor Keith Clock