A bill was proposed by an Indiana representative to allow firearms at public universities. Ball State does not currently allow firearms on campus, but that could change if the bill is passed. DN PHOTO RACHEL PODNER
Proposed bill would allow firearms at public universities
An Indiana representative proposed a bill that would allow firearms at public universities, including Ball State.
House Bill 1055 would make it illegal for state agencies — including universities — to regulate firearm possession and transportation on state-owned land.
“Where a lot of these shootings are happening is gun-free zones,” said Rep. Jim Lucas (R), the author of the bill. “I've seen this back and forth in the media, and I'm tired of sitting on the sidelines.”
Joan Todd, university spokesperson, said in an email that Ball State currently doesn't allow firearms on campus — a policy that is consistent with other universities in the state.
“The university believes there are more appropriate methods to improve safety, [like] by asking community members to be aware and report suspicious activities to police,” Todd said.
She added, “The university will, of course, always follow the law.”
In a November panel on gun ownership and rights, Jim Duckham, chief of the University Police Department, said he wouldn't support policies that allowed firearms at Ball State.
“I don't want guns on campus. I don't think it's a good thing,” he said. “I've heard the arguments, and you're just not going to convince me.”
Likewise, in 2014, a Ball State study asked university presidents about their views on concealed carry. Out of 401 college chief executives surveyed in “University Presidents' Perceptions and Practice Regarding the Carrying of Concealed Handguns on College Campuses,” 95 percent responded that they opposed concealed carry on campus.
However, there is some support for the right to carry firearms on campus. An unofficial Ball State student group, Students for Concealed Carry, supports students' rights to use their concealed carry permits on college campuses.
Last spring, the group participated in Empty Holster Protest Week, wearing their holsters around campus to draw attention to the cause.
HB 1055 is nearly identical to bills Lucas presented during Indiana's 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions. None of them received hearings on the floor.
Lucas is more optimistic that his bill will receive a hearing this time around because of the media attention surrounding firearms. He said, last year, leadership was more focused on fiscal bills.
HB 1055 isn't the only bill concerning firearms during the 2016 legislative session.
Lucas is the author of another bill, House Bill 1056, which would allow people to carry firearms without a license to carry. Sen. Jim Tomes (R) also filed a bill that would allow those convicted of alcohol violations, like drunken driving, to still receive a license to carry a handgun.
Lucas and Tomes' bills contrast with President Barack Obama's recently announced 10-point plan. Obama hopes to clarify who is a licensed dealer, making it harder for people to purchase firearms without a background check, according to the Associated Press.
Although Obama mentioned recent mass shootings when he announced his plan, an Associated Press review found that his new measures probably wouldn't have prevented many of the recent shootings, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Lucas hopes his bill will keep people safer, if passed. But first, it needs to get a hearing.
“Any school shooting is going on in a gun-free zone,” Lucas said. “I'm openly saying right now that those laws are dangerous. Gun-free zone laws are getting people killed. They're disarming those that obey the law, and they're doing absolutely nothing for those that don't obey the law.”