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Gun-in-school mandate may not make cut

– A mandate requiring armed school personnel will likely be removed by the House Ways and Means Committee today.

The panel will take up Senate Bill 1, which was amended in the House Education Committee last week to include the controversial language.

“I think we’d have a hard time getting the bill passed if we continue to mandate it,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.

He said concerns have been expressed by both Republicans and Democrats.

According to the bill, a school protection officer would be required in each school and must be on the property during regular school hours carrying a loaded firearm.

That person could be a teacher or other school employee who has volunteered and undergone additional training. Or the district might have to hire someone, though there is no money in the bill to train employees or hire outside guards.

There are more than 1,900 public schools in the state, including charter schools.

Since it was added to the bill to provide a deterrent from outside attack, many people have opposed the language. Gov. Mike Pence, as well as Senate President Pro Tem David Long, have said it should be an option for local schools.

At least three amendments have been filed to remove the mandate from the bill but it is unclear whether an option will remain in the legislation.

Several proposed amendments also would indemnify schools against legal action related to the weapons. And one would even give an employee carrying the gun a special tax deduction.

Several people testified against the gun mandate Monday before the hearing was suspended.

“For every school to have someone armed is reprehensible,” said Peg Paulson of Carmel. “We do not believe that more guns make us more safe. We are horrified that you would even consider a bill like this.”

She is a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Several people also reminded the panel that Columbine High School had a uniformed and armed sheriff’s deputy on duty at the time of the shooting rampage and 15 people still died.

The core of Senate Bill 1 focuses on school resource officers, who are usually full-time law officers assigned to a school from a local law enforcement agency to focus on overall school safety.

But they aren’t required by law, and it is estimated only a quarter to a third of Indiana school corporations have resource officers.

The bill would provide a grant matching system to help schools hire more school resource officers.

nkelly@jg.net

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