Burris students gain national attention in the conversation around guns after a house representative flashes a gun

<p>Abigail E. Comber was appointed as Burris Laboratory School&#x27;s interim principal for the 2021-22 school year. Comber has experience teaching and serving as assistant principal at the school. <strong>Jaden Whiteman, DN File</strong></p>

Abigail E. Comber was appointed as Burris Laboratory School's interim principal for the 2021-22 school year. Comber has experience teaching and serving as assistant principal at the school. Jaden Whiteman, DN File

Burris Laboratory School senior Alana Trissel and junior Makynna Fivecoats attended the advocacy day rally with their “Students Demand Action (SDA)” club at the Indiana Statehouse the morning of Jan. 30.

The students were visiting with hundreds of other parents and students from across the state with their SDA clubs — hoping to have a conversation with legislators about gun legislation in the state.

Trissle and Fivecoats engaged in a conversation with District 69 Rep. Jim Lucas about gun rights — specifically the right to carry a gun anywhere in the state.

Amid the conversation, Lucas opened his jacket to reveal his own gun.

“If he would have just said, ‘I carried that with me at all times,’ it definitely would have been a different conversation than him saying, ‘Oh, I'm carrying right now,’ and lifted it up showing us it again,” Fivecoats said. “It really took a turn and it kind of shifted.”

Trissel said the conversation wasn’t a civil discussion after that, and it felt like a threat or intimidation from an adult to teenagers.

As of Feb. 5, Lucas’ office has not responded to a request for comment from the Daily News, but the representative posted a statement on Facebook Jan. 30 following the incident.

“The conversation was respectful, but it was clearly facts, reason and logic vs. plain emotion,” Lucas said. “I also learned afterward [sic] that you must ALWAYS assume that you’re being recorded because you probably are!”

The group of Burris SDA students were in attendance at the recurring advocacy day at the statehouse, put on by Mothers Demand Action, the organization overseeing the SDA clubs.

These advocacy days allow students to talk with legislators about gun-related legislation. Fivecoats and Trissel had an interest in discussing House Bill (HB) 1318 and 1325.

HB 1318, would provide Hoosiers a tax credit for proper storage of a firearm. The storage accepted is a safe, lockbox, cabinet, or other container designed to store firearms securely by restricting access to the firearms by a locking device.

Additionally, a locking device that, when installed on a firearm, is designed to prevent the firearm from being operated without first deactivating the device, would also count.

HB 1325 brings into conversation gun manufacturers when a gun is used criminally. If a gun is used in a criminal manner, investigators are able to bring the manufacturer of the gun into questioning about the origins of the gun, how the accused got the gun, etc.

“If a manufacturer sold someone the gun and then they went and shot up the school with it, then [the state] could then look into that sale and see, ‘Did the gun company not do something right? Was it under the table? Was there something that they're kind of dismissing?’” Fivecoats said. “That then holds gun manufacturers accountable against them not doing things that are the correct way “

indiana gun statistics online-02.png
Meghan Holt, DN Design

According to a survey from Gallup in October 2023, 56 percent of Americans want stricter laws, and overall Americans believe guns make homes safer rather than more dangerous.

Indiana received a D- grade on its gun safety report card, ranking 17th with a gun death rate of 17.6 per 100,000 Hoosiers, according to the Giffords Law Center.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of adults ages 18-24 believe there should be stricter gun regulations in The United States.

But, Trissel and Fivecoats argue this issue matters to those under 18 — legal voting age — just as much.

“This is very much a teenager conversation. This is a kid conversation. Kids are dying every day by guns,” Fivecoats said.

In the days following the students’ visit to the Statehouse, District 34 Rep. Sue Errington (D) called for Lucas to apologize.

“As legislators, we should encourage our youth to be involved in the legislative process, not scare them away. It is unfathomable that these young activists were met with such behavior. I encourage Rep. Lucas to offer an apology to these students and reflect on how he engages with Hoosier students in the future,” Errington said in a press release.

Trissel and Fivecoats said this incident has not discouraged their plans nor Burris’ chapter of SDA. The group has released a public statement in the coming days about the incident where they can share their thoughts.

“I think what's most troubling is that what's being spread is the fact that we were scared. That, in a sense ,is true, but we didn't back down. And that's why it's kind of hard to have this mass information being spread because only part of it is true,” Trissel said.

The group still plans to continue with their normal activities as well, including events that bring awareness to political topics such as anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and urging peers to register to vote. Trissel said the moment at the Statehouse did not scare them, but “ignited their fire.”

“I think what we want to get out of this situation is to urge people to, please, go out and vote,” Fivecoats said. “Vote for people that hold the same beliefs and ideals as you [and] hold the same beliefs and ideals as your children and the people around you.”

Editor-in-chief Daniel Kehn and Associate News Editor Trinity Rea contributed to this story.
Contact Olivia Ground with comments at olivia.ground@bsu.edu or on X @liv_ground_25.


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