INDIANAPOLIS- State lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday that would require schools to have an armed protection officer in the building during school hours, but they also gave schools the opportunity to opt out of that requirement.
Senate Bill 1 passed the House Ways and Means Committee by a vote 16-7.
Among several amendments proposed and debated was the addition of a waiver process, which would give schools an annual opportunity to opt out of the requirement.
If the local school safety board approved the waiver, the school would not have to arm any personnel.
That information would be kept confidential, so the public would never know which schools have
guns and ones that don’t.
Another change to the original bill drew sharp criticism and passionate testimony Tuesday morning.
Representative Linda Lawson, who is retired from the Hammond Police Department, said the amended bill was confusing a school protection officer with a school resource officer.
“This is a huge mistake,” she told Fox59. “Putting a civilian in a school with a gun is a very bad move.”
Lawson pointed out that a school resource officer has far more training than the 40 hours required to arm a volunteer protection officer. And, she said, the 14 weeks of training for a resource officer goes beyond learning how to point and shoot.
“There is a big difference between pulling your weapon on another person and simply aiming at a paper target,” Lawson said.
Nicky McNalley, of the group “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America”, also expressed concern with having civilian volunteers carrying weapons in schools.
“Teachers are responsible for 25 to 30 kids at a time,” she said. “To think that they could possibly react to a shooter the way a trained police officer would and still take care of those children at the same time is absolutely ridiculous.”
The bill’s main supporter Tuesday was one of its authors, Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour). He argued that efforts to limit guns through federal legislation are destined to fail because criminals who seek weapons will not follow the laws. He also cited past mass shootings like Columbine and Sandy Hook, pointing out that those mass killings took place in “gun free” zones.
“More background checks are a feel-good measure,” Lucas said. “Guns aren’t going anywhere.”
Under the bill, a protection officer could be any volunteer or staff member at the school who underwent 40 hours of training.
Many public and charter schools already have protection officers or resource officers on in their buildings.
More debate appears likely as the bill moves to the full house for consideration. Lawmakers are on deadline to wrap up the legislative session April 29.