In response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, lawmakers in Indiana are looking to pass a bill that would require at least one teacher, principal or staff member to carry a firearm in every school in the state.
Proponents of Senate Bill 1 argue that having armed personnel in schools would help to keep students and teachers safe, providing both a deterrent and a line of defense against a deranged gunman — an approach to school security that is fully endorsed by the National Rifle Association’s National School Shield Program.
“I’ve been approached by several teachers that would love the ability to have their natural right to self-defense recognized and would gladly do this without being paid,” Indiana bill sponsor Rep. Jim Lucas told Fox News.
The bill, which cleared the House Education Committee by a vote of 9-3 on Tuesday, gives schools the option to decide whether it wants to hire a student resource officer (essentially a sworn police officer) or simply provide training to teachers or other school staff members.
Either way, if the bill is approved the GOP-controlled General Assembly, someone will have to be armed and trained.
“We want someone who’s familiar with firearms who feels secure in that position and I suspect in almost every school across the state of Indiana I suspect there will be people who will step up and be trained for that position,” State Rep. Jerry Torr told local news affiliate WFPL.
Though, not everyone is on board with SB1. Some critics have argued that the legislation is vague, and doesn’t spell out the training requirements in enough detail.
“I am very uneasy,” Steve Garner, chief of police for Indianapolis Public Schools, told the Indianapolis Star. “I would feel easier if they had thought it out and we had a longer discussion about it.”
Garner, who has 30 years of law enforcement experience said he appreciates the legislature’s efforts to make schools safer, but the specifics need to be addressed.
“If 99.9 percent of your duty doesn’t involve you engaging a gun and shooting it, what are you going to do when the time comes,” Garner said about teachers being trained.
Brenda Pike, executive director of Indiana Star Teacher Associations, told the Indianapolis Star that the Hoosier state is just not ready to be the vanguard for mandated armed officers in every school.
“On a statewide basis, we have not had enough discussion to be a test case,” she said. “We have not seen our members cry out for guns in schools.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Mike Pence has said he will reserve judgment on SB1 until the details are full-fleshed out.
“I always believe that decisions in our local schools are best made at the local level, and I have no objection to allowing schools across Indiana to have a better opportunity to have an armed school resource officer or an armed school protection officer,” Pence said on Wednesday.
Pressed about the armed personnel mandate, Pence added, “As I said, I have a strong bias to local control. I don’t want to prejudge this legislation while it’s being written.”
Currently the bill has been passed to the House Ways and Means Committee for further review.
What are your thoughts? Is a bill mandating armed security a good idea? Or should the decision be left up to local school districts?