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Indiana Senate approves training program for armed teachers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The sponsor of an armed teacher training program on Tuesday said he would prefer a mandatory program but it likely would not become law otherwise.

The state Senate voted along party lines to approve legislation prescribing a voluntary training program for any teacher authorized to carry a concealed firearm on school property. A school corporation, charter school, or accredited public school could apply for a state grant to send an authorized teacher to a 40-hour training course.

The curriculum would have to address the specific challenges involved in responding to an active shooter in a school environment. Teachers undergoing the training would have to undergo at least eight hours of live-fire drills based around shooting in a crowded environment, shooting while moving, and engaging multiple targets. Instructors also would have to cover gunshot wound care, legal responsibilities and safely identifying themselves to the police.

Current state law allows a school’s governing body to decide whether to authorize teachers to carry a firearm on school grounds but says nothing about training. Bill sponsor Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, has tried for several years to make such a training program mandatory. He said the House has nixed such legislation every time, so a voluntary program is the best he can hope for. This year’s legislation originated in the House.

“We have made it possible for the teachers in our state to be armed in these school districts but they don’t have to be trained in how to use the weapons. That, to me, is problematic,” fellow Republican Sen. John Crane, of Avon, said. “I think if you’re going to use a weapon, you’d better be trained in how to use it.”

Senate Democrats said they agreed with the principle that teachers should undergo training if they are going to carry a firearm on school grounds. But several, including Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, said they voted against it because they did not like what it represented.

“There are gaps in this piece of legislation,” Qaddoura said. “If the teacher ends up shooting someone by mistake, who’s going to bear that legal responsibility, the school district or the state of Indiana?”

The bill already passed the House but has to go back to that chamber because of changes the Senate made. Lawmakers have until the end of next week to hammer out any differences between the two chambers on any bills.