Bill to train school personnel who carry firearms good idea


(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. The scourge of school shootings that has plagued the nation since Columbine, Colo., on April 20, 1999, included two in Indiana last year.

Arming teachers or other school personnel in an attempt to help prevent future tragedies is one such desperate measure some schools around the country, including our state, have opted to take. A handful of Indiana school districts already have chosen to give staff access to firearms and provide training, such as Jay County Schools.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, says he was prompted to introduce House Bill 1253 in the Indiana Legislature this year following school shootings in Noblesville and Richmond last year, and earlier mass killings in Parkland, Fla., and Newtown, Conn. He proposed that volunteers from schools could be trained to use a firearm to provide protection for students, teachers and others.

School districts already may allow teachers to carry guns under existing state law. Lucas’ bill, in its final form, would have required all teachers authorized to carry guns in school to take firearms training each year as well as to undergo a personality screening to weed out those on staff who might not have the proper temperament to carry a firearm in school.

Lucas, however, refused to sign a deal on the bill because he thought it had become a “gun control” measure, and it died on the last day of House met.

The House version developed a curriculum that schools could voluntarily use to train their teachers using state school grants. But the Senate made the training a requirement, which Lucas opposes in general, saying it’s a slippery slope that could lead to required training for all gun owners.

Lucas told in Indianapolis that he would rather “kill a good bill — even if its mine — than see a bad bill progress.” believes that if a school board decides to authorize school staff members to possess firearms on school property, they must be well-trained. The provision in Lucas’ bill for training for staff members who volunteer and are approved by the board for the program would include firearms handling, safety, storage and marksmanship as well as active shooter response and first aid.

The Washington Post reports that schools in 10 states allow teachers and staff members to be armed, with administrators’ permission. Some teachers in Ohio, for example, have been authorized to carry firearms in schools after undergoing training. And Florida is on the verge of expanding a law that allows some teachers to carry guns in the classroom after the Senate this week passed a school safety bill that seeks changes to a law enacted last year after a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland high school.

Krista Stockman, public information officer of Fort Wayne Community Schools, the largest school district in the state, told us, “We have no plans to arm our teachers. With our close relationship with (the Fort Wayne Police Department), we will leave the firearms to those who are well-trained and allow our teachers to focus on educating students.”

But districts wanting the deterrent of guns in the hands of well-trained staff on their children’s campuses in case of such threats that have terrorized schools across the country have been granted the opportunity to do so for the peace of mind of parents, teachers and administrators. And, as long as school boards, answerable to the voters in their districts, control the programs and require training, we think that’s a good thing.

Rep. Lucas says he plans to bring his bill back to the Legislature for consideration next year.

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