Controversial gun bill among key issues remaining for state lawmakers

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 10, 2014) – State lawmakers have less than a week to finish negotiations on several key issues- everything from mass transit to vouchers for preschoolers.

Legislators have until Friday to finish their work, with a number of big proposals still being negotiated, including a controversial bill dealing with guns in school parking lots.

The bill would allow gun-carrying school employees to take their firearms onto school property, as long as the gun is locked away in their car.

The proposal, added into a gun-buyback bill (SB 229), would decriminalize the act of leaving a gun stowed away in your car in a school parking lot. It’s currently legal for drivers to have a gun in the car while driving through a school parking lot, but it’s currently a felony to have a gun on your person, or in the car, upon leaving your vehicle.

“We shouldn’t make them a felon for exercising their right to defend themselves,” said state Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, who authored the proposal.

“The gun lobby’s done a great job of making people afraid for more than 30 years that people are going to take away their guns,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “(But) moms are afraid that people are going to take away their children.”

Tension ran high Monday morning at a House-Senate conference committee on the issue.

“I wanted to share the views of our 3,000 (Indiana) members about the need to keep guns off school property,” said Watts. “(But) I was met with a lot of derision and disrespect from the committee members.”

“When we correct people who are constantly misrepresenting the facts and present them with the actual facts, if that’s considered bullying, I apologize,” said Lucas. “That certainly was not our intent.”

“I thought the behavior of some of our committee members and advisers was a little over the top,” said state Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson. “I thought they were disrespectful to some of the folks expressing concerns.”

So could there be a compromise, making it a misdemeanor to have a gun in the car, without making it legal?

People on both sides were unwilling to budge on Monday, but lawmakers still have a few days left to negotiate a deal.

On Monday, state lawmakers also discussed a bill that would free up more money for new road construction projects.

But that bill and one that would start a pilot program for pre-K vouchers, are being looked at in a new light after a revenue report late last week showed the state didn’t bring in nearly as much money last month as they’d first expected.

So what will that mean for the pre-K pilot program, business taxes and other big items on the governor’s agenda?

Lawmakers have until Friday to decide.

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