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Bill to allow guns on school property draws fire

Updated: April 6, 2014 6:40AM



Local educators and a statewide gun reform lobby are condemning a bill passed by the Indiana House allowing firearms on school property if they’re hidden in locked vehicles and the owner has a carry permit.

Senate Bill 229, originally aimed at limiting firearm-buyback programs, was amended in a House committee to include the school provision. It passed the House by a 74-24 vote Monday. It’s likely headed to a conference committee where lawmakers will review its language.

Current law makes it a felony to bring a gun on school property, including parking lots.

Senate Bill 229 would allow Hoosiers with carry permits to have firearms on school property, if they are out of sight in locked vehicles.

It would remain a felony to carry the firearm into a school. If the gun is visible in the vehicle, it is a misdemeanor.

Students would be prohibited from having weapons in parked vehicles unless they belong to school gun clubs and have written permission from principals.

Last week, police arrested a Morgan Township student with a rifle and 140 rounds of ammunition in his trunk in a school lot. Ryan Gaddis, 18, was charged with possession of a firearm on school property, a Class D felony. Police also found a bandolier, a hunting knife, a baton and night-vision goggles.

East Porter Superintendent Rod Gardin, who sent a letter home to parents about the incident, directed a letter Tuesday to state Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, who authored the original Senate bill.

“I do not understand how you believe that allowing people to have guns on school property is useful in any manner,” Gardin stated. He challenged bill supporters who said the bill will protect parents who drop their children off at school and inadvertently have a weapon in their vehicle. Gardin said in his 20 years as a school administrator, that scenario has never occurred.

“In trying to keep students and staff safe, it would seem to make more sense to keep guns farther away from schools, not bring them closer to potential targets,” he said.

In the past three years, Gardin said he’s warned four parents about their “dangerous” behavior while on school property.

“Imagine the tragedies we will see if people are able to possess a gun in their car on school property. There will be little to stop a person from going to his or her vehicle to retrieve a weapon to use to settle an argument,” he said.

Merrillville Community School Corp. Superintendent Mark Sperling also sent a letter to lawmakers about the bill.

He said he wrote to every member of the House committee where the amendment was approved.

“I have a deep concern about having any weapons on school grounds. ... It absolutely sends the wrong message to that in the bill,” he said. “It creates a very real security issue for every school in the state.”

Sperling said the bill would open schools to people who don’t use good judgment: “It only takes one,” he said.

The Indiana chapter of Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense in America also opposed the bill. “This bill is extremely dangerous because it means that firearms will be allowed near our children no matter where our children are. Guns will be allowed in parking lots, at graduation and prom venues held off school property,” said Nicki McNally, Indiana chapter leader of Moms Demand Action. “More guns in more places is not the answer.”



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