Two controversial gun bills up for debate at Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A pair of controversial gun bills is up for debate at the Indiana Statehouse on Monday. One of the bills would expand the rights and protections of gun owners involved in self-defense shootings; the other bill would arm teachers in Indiana schools.

House Bill 1253 will be debated before a conference committee at noon to provide funding for the training of teachers and staff so that they might be armed on school property.

House Bill 1284 could be approved by the state senate to provide protection to gun owners who shoot in self-defense or to protect another person.

Republican Representative Jim Lucas of Seymour said one of the recommendations to come from the investigation of the Parkland school shooting tragedy in Florida last year was to arm trained teachers to respond before law enforcement could arrive.

Lucas said with at least 38 hours of training, the bill to arm school teachers would require more training than some Indiana police officers receive.

“It’s much more in-depth and focusing on just one scenario. Firearms safety, weapon retention, force-on- force, shoot/don’t shoot scenarios, first aid and then the psychological aspects afterwards of how to deal with that,” he said. “The school corporations that do want to do this, we have a training class developed by the people that train our police officers. The state will pay for it, and then when you look at the economics of it as well, one school resource officer is about $70,000 annually, every year that’s a $70,000 expense. For the one-year cost of one school resource officer, we can train about 45 staff members. So you’ve got a 45:1 scenario right there and now you’ve got one heck of a deterrent in that facility.”

Opponents claim there is no empirical data to prove that armed teachers would make for safer schools.

“We have laws against people carrying guns in schools for good reasons because it’s based on sound public safety practice, and that’s the reason that school safety experts pretty much universally oppose this practice,” said Rachel Gugielmo of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Teachers have enough on their plates. There’s no evidence to support this policy. There’s no evidence to support the idea that arming teachers makes kids and schools safer. In fact, the evidence that we do have is quite to the contrary—it raises the risk.”

The second bill that could be voted on by senators Monday would prohibit people who have been shot in self-defense, or their estates, from suing the gun owner who acted to protect him or herself or others.

“Tell me, what would you do if you witnessed a violent person harming and trying to take the life of another? What if a split second decides who lives and who dies? What if you’re the only person who can make this life-saving decision?” asked Kystie Phillips after she was sued by the family of a man she killed who was attacking a conservation officer. “I didn’t think about the immense financial burden of legal defense. I didn’t think about the emotional nightmare that my family was about to endure the next two years. I didn’t think about my family being ripped apart from the stress. I didn’t think about my mental and physical health being compromised as a result.”

During the same senate committee hearing last month, an opponent argued that Indiana law already protects self-defense shooters.

“In Indiana we have not only a robust Stand Your Ground law but also a strong Good Samaritan law,” said Cathy Weinmann, also of Indiana Moms Demand Action. “These two combined already provide far-reaching protection to people who are acting to truly help others in a dangerous situation as well as those who are protecting others from harm.”

Five of Indianapolis’ 43 homicides thus far this year are listed as exceptionally cleared by detectives citing elements of self-defense.

Indiana lawmakers are racing against the clock to wrap up work this week as several out-of-town legislators may be asked to give up their hotel rooms for the NRA’s 148th Annual Meeting which is set to begin Thursday at the Indiana Convention Center.

An estimated 75,000 attendees, some housed as far away as Bloomington and Lafayette, are expected to come through the turnstiles during the four-day event.

President Trump and Vice President Pence will deliver speeches to the NRA membership at Lucas Oil Stadium Friday.

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