Jeff Armstrong, who has a daughter at Ball State and a son at Noblesville Middle School, wants to live in a world where school shootings aren’t a common occurrence. 

House Bill 1253, a bill that would have allowed firearms to be carried on school grounds but was altered through amendments made during the Senate House Education Committee reading, does not achieve this goal, Armstrong said. 

“I don’t see a single thing in this bill that protects my son in school,” said Armstrong, whose son was attending the middle school during last year’s school shooting that left a student and a teacher injured. “I’m saddened our elected officials haven’t chosen to listen to their constituents.”

As authored, the bill would have eliminated all schools as gun-free zones, a measure strongly criticized by the Indiana State Teachers Association and State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. It also would have provided immunity to any justified use of force on school property. The amendment, passed 11-2, preceded the bill’s hearing.

Students stand in a single file line waiting for their name to be called by a teacher at Noblesville High School May 25, 2018, as their parents show ID and pick up their child. Stephanie Amador, DN File

Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) introduced the bill and fielded testimony that was largely in opposition to the proposed law for nearly two hours.

After being amended, the bill is now a plan to make state funds available to provide volunteer training for teachers and other school employees who are allowed to carry firearms on school property.

“Teachers and staff are the true first responders,” said Lucas, who cited police response times for school mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, as reasons for the alarming amount of casualties. “[Teachers] are the ones that we need to enable and train to be able to react in a situation such as this.”

The training program is modeled after the active-shooter training police officers receive.

The bill, which passed out of committee 8-2, received several unsuccessful amendments during the full-House vote.

One proposed amendment by Rep. Edward DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) would have forbidden any former student from legally carrying a gun on school grounds if they were removed or expelled for disciplinary reasons from that school within the previous two years.

This was proposed as an effort to keep out former disgruntled students from coming back to their old school and potentially killing someone. 

The amendment was shot down 57-31.

The law currently on the books leaves the decision to allow guns to individual school corporations. So far, three school districts in the state allow teachers to have guns in the classroom. All of them are rural school districts that are worried police would not be able to respond to a school shooting in time.

Parents pick up their children from Noblesville High School May 25, 2018, after receiving calls that the school was on lockdown due to a communicative threat. Stephanie Amador, DN File

“We did not make this decision lightly,” said Jeremy Gully, superintendent of Jay School Corporation, who presides over one of those districts. “In our rural school district, this is the last line of defense to protect innocent life and stop the carnage.”

The bill is one of a slew that are aimed to strengthen school safety in light of the school shootings last year in Richmond and Noblesville.

Emily Cole, a senior student activist at Noblesville High School, pleaded to committee members to vote against the bill, specifically calling out Lucas and Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville), who was among the 72 representatives who voted in favor of moving the amended bill to the Senate.

“Rep. Goodrich, I sat and cried with your daughter on that day,” Cole said. “We were so scared. We could hear the SWAT team banging on the doors. This bill would only have increased tensions that day.”

She asked Goodrich to “use common sense” adding, “If not for me, do it for your daughters and sons.”

Contact Riley Eubanks with comments at rjeubanks@bsu.edu.