Indiana sends state-funded teacher gun training to governor

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Indiana state lawmakers have sent the state’s Republican governor a bill that would create a state-funded handgun training program available for teachers, something critics have said could wrongly increase the number of guns in schools.

The state Senate gave the bill its final approval Wednesday evening after the House concurred with changes to the legislation earlier that day.

The bill, which passed the Senate 41-8 without debate and now goes to the desk of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, is the cumulation of efforts by state lawmakers to offer additional training that have failed in recent years. That legislation was previously halted by opposition from both gun-rights advocates, who said training mandates would overstep local control, and gun-control proponents, who argued against steps they see as arming teachers.

Supporters have also said the 40 hours of optional training could help teachers learn how to defend themselves and students if needed, especially in situations with an active shooter.

“This is not a solution, and there are no guarantees,” GOP Rep. Jim Lucas, the bill’s author, said Wednesday afternoon, before the House vote. “This is a tool that people can choose to opt into.”

The legislation had advanced earlier this month amid teachers’ objections that having additional guns in schools would worsen school safety.

Democratic Rep. Maureen Bauer joined Republicans earlier Wednesday in voting for the bill, saying it could “prevent accidental shootings or children from being the next school shooter” because of a provision in it that requires the Department of Education and Indiana State Police to send parents a letter outlining how to safely possess and store a firearm in their house away from their children.

Two Democratic senators joined all Senate Republicans in voting for the bill.

All proposed training would be voluntary and paid for by the state. State law currently allows school districts to permit teachers to be armed, but no training is mandated.

Schools could also apply for such funding in the event of a school shooting “to cover the costs of counseling” for students, teachers and other school employees, the bill states.

In the previous legislative session, Indiana lawmakers repealed a permit requirement for those carrying a gun in public. All residents age 18 or older — except those with a felony conviction, who face a restraining order or have a dangerous mental illness — can carry a handgun in public.

Democratic Rep. Tonya Pfaff, a teacher in Terre Haute, said on Wednesday that the handgun training bill “will not stop school shootings.”

“Teachers just want to teach,” she said. “Let us.”

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