Indiana Rep Proposes ‘Decriminalizing Self-Defense’ On Campuses

Under an Indiana lawmaker’s proposal, teachers, parents, visitors and some older students would be allowed to take guns to school parking lots.

If left locked and out of sight in their vehicles, a bill by Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas would let licensed gun owners have firearms on school property in what he terms as “decriminalize self-defense”.

“I want to decriminalize self-defense,” said Lucas, who also is sponsoring legislation this year to stop state universities from banning guns on campuses, a perennial but so-far unsuccessful effort in the Indiana General Assembly.

In an effort that failed, Lucas, in the last session, wanted to require an armed employee in every public or charter school, a move that was spurred by the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The continuing debate on guns at schools could also be as a result of a shooting incident that recently left one person dead at Purdue University. However, pushes for individual gun rights will come at the expense of student safety, fear some critics.

“Are we opening up and creating an environment (for students) that says, OK, it’s allowed to have a gun? Even if it’s locked in a car, out of sight?” said Democratic state Rep. Phil GiaQuinta. “Is this one more quick access to a gun?”

For that reason, House Bill 1048 is being pitched by Lucas as a convenience for parents and teachers, who might legally have guns in their cars but can’t park at school with them. In what could be potentially including some students, licensed owners have to be at least 18. Schools have the option to ban the practice under current state law, which most do. However, most employers are not in a position to prohibit employees from having guns in their cars at work.

Nonetheless, GiaQuinta doesn’t want to take that option away from local school boards.  Additionally, he fears that it could turn dangerous if someone, particularly a student, gets caught up in the heat of emotion and has a gun nearby. To prevent students from carrying guns in their cars, he expected the proposal to be amended. According to Stephanie Wang of The Indianapolis Star, Wednesday will see the hearing on the bill by the House Public Policy Committee.

Lucas has the support of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents in addition to backing from the National Rifle Association. However, J.T. Coopman, the executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, disagrees with some aspects of the bill.

“Quite honestly, it is a bill that made some sense,” Coopman said, calling it “a good middle-of-the-road compromise from where Representative Lucas initially wanted to go”.

Coopman said he didn’t want to penalize responsible students or parents who simply forgot or didn’t have time to take their guns home although he would prefer to minimize guns at schools and let districts make their own rules.

Whether the presence of guns at schools could fuel more incidents of school violence was quickly dismissed by Lucas. According to him, no laws will stop people’s intent on those kinds of actions.

“I think as we see events play out, people realize it’s not the actual firearm — it’s bad people doing bad things,” Lucas said. “And they realize police can’t be everywhere all at the same time, and carrying a firearm is the most efficient, most effective means of self-defense.”

However, guns can’t fight gun violence, according to critics.

“The answer is not to arm our students and faculty or to allow more guns in schools and universities,” said Shannon Watts, founder of the Zionsville-based Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “The answer is to put in new and stronger gun laws that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

01 29, 2014
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