Bill would give teachers in some school districts funding for optional handgun safety training
A bill that would fund specialized, optional firearm safety training for school employees passed out of the House Education Committee Wednesday.
State law already allows local school boards to authorize administrators, teachers and other staff to carry a firearm on school grounds. HB 1177 would reallocate funding from the Indiana Safe Schools and related funds for optional firearms instruction for school employees. The bill also provides funding for counseling services for students, teachers, school staff and employees in the event of a school shooting.
There were 51 school shootings across the U.S. last year that resulted in injuries or deaths, according to Education Week. It was the most shootings in a single year since the publication began collecting the data in 2018.
Safety at schools remains a top concern for Indiana families. Results from a survey of Hoosier parents found roughly a third of who responded to the Gallup poll said they worry often or very often about their child’s safety at school.
Chris Lagoni, executive director of the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association, said the training could further the level of protection smaller school districts can provide for their children.
“I’m not sure people understand how many – how few – officers are actually on duty in a rural county if something were to happen,” he said.
Lagoni added this increases local control for school districts by allowing them to place the expense for this specialized training into their Safe Schools Grant.
READ MORE: How do I follow Indiana’s legislative session? Here’s your guide to demystify the process
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues throughout the legislative session. And follow along with our bill tracker.
The voluntary program for interested teachers involves 40 hours of training for firearm safety and use, modeled off of training law enforcement officials currently use.
The bill’s author, Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour), said this training is not forced upon teachers, and is designed to make them feel safer.
“This training class – 40 plus hours – is designed to take the average person on the street and get them to a level of proficiency that in the event of an active shooter situation, they will at least have an opportunity to defend themselves and those around them if they so choose,” he said.
Lucas emphasized this does not require trained teachers to defend themselves and others when an active shooter situation occurs.
Those opposed to the bill, including lawmakers like teacher Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute), said this legislation does not address certain safety concerns, like gun storage.
“I walk around my classroom up and down through the aisles and I help students,” she said. “What happens if a kid just decides to grab it off my holster?”
Pfaff said theft of weapons in schools and improper placement of weapons could lead to children gaining access to these firearms.
Other members of the Indiana House Democrats echoed these concerns and denounced the legislation, saying teachers need “resources, not revolvers.” In a press release, the group said “‘a good guy with a gun’ rarely saves lives during an active shooter situation.”
Lucas said schools are able to enact their own policies and gun theft/proper storage is not an issue in schools that currently allow staff members to carry guns.
The bill passed out of committee in a 9-4 vote.
Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.