Indiana House members applauded Thursday after they removed a loaded-gun-in-every-school mandate from Senate Bill 1, according to news reports. And why not? Arguably they had just stood up to the National Rifle Association.
Not on the record. There was no roll call on the amendment to disarm the bill, so no one was recorded casting an anti-gun vote. Deniability was maintained.
SB 1 is Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s proposal to help schools hire school resource officers, law enforcement officers stationed in schools to help maintain security. But in the House Education Committee, Rep. Jim Lucas got it amended to require that someone in every public and charter school in the state – if not a security guard, then a teacher – carry a loaded firearm at all times. The amendment mirrored recommendations from the NRA, which urged members to tell their representatives to vote for the amended bill.
Lucas said his intent was to prevent mass school shootings. “With Sandy Hook, with Virginia Tech, with Columbine — those were places that were gun-free zones, and we see the results of that,” he told Indiana Public Media. “This bill is trying to prevent that.” In fact, two armed officers were at Columbine High School but weren’t able to prevent the 1999 tragedy at that school. Virginia Tech had 34 police officers on duty on the day of the 2007 campus shootings.
The Ways and Means Committee later softened Lucas’ language to let schools opt out of the gun mandate. But school boards would have had to opt out every year, and the votes would have been secret. Parents would have had no right to know if teachers were carrying loaded guns.
What happened next? Maybe Zoeller objected, behind the scenes, to the hijacking of his bill. Maybe House Speaker Brian Bosma or Gov. Mike Pence intervened. Maybe common sense broke out. With little debate, the House on Thursday punted the issue of arming school personnel to a law enforcement board for more study.
And the members applauded. Maybe it was because they had defied the NRA. Or maybe it was nervous relief, realizing they had barely avoided doing something truly rash.