INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana's public and charter schools would be required to have an employee carry a loaded gun during school in order to respond quickly to attacks under a proposal an Indiana House committee approved Tuesday.
Supporters said the proposal could help prevent tragedies such as the December elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 students and six teachers died. Opponents say they're concerned that the proposal was rushed and that it's unnecessary and could force schools to hire people who are willing to carry guns.
Schools would be required to always have someone carrying a gun on duty during school hours. People filling the role could be police officers or other non-educators but also could be teachers or principals. Regardless, the protection officers would have to meet training standards set by a new statewide school safety board, said the provision's sponsor, Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour.
"I've been approached by several teachers that would love the ability to have their natural right to self-defense recognized and would gladly do this without being paid," Lucas said.
The House Education Committee voted 9-3 to approve the bill, advancing it to the Ways and Means Committee for financial review. It would still need approval from the full House and Senate, which are both dominated by Republicans.
A National Rifle Association-sponsored study released Tuesday recommended schools across the nation each train and arm at least one staff member. South Dakota's governor last month signed into law a measure allowing the state's school districts to arm teachers and other personnel with guns, but no states require armed employees in schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Indiana law currently prohibits anyone other than police officers and authorized school employees from possessing firearms on school property. Lucas said he know of no Indiana districts that now allow teachers to have guns at school.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence's office released a statement that didn't directly address requiring armed school employees, while saying he had been working on the school safety issue since taking office in January.
"Governor Pence believes that decisions about school safety and security should be made by local schools, with support from the state," the statement said. It went on to say, "We want to support local efforts to make schools as safe as possible so our teachers can focus on the education of our children and our children can simply be kids."
Lucas added the proposal to a Senate-approved bill that that aimed to start a state grant program to help school districts hire police officers who've undergone extra training on how to deal with students and school facilities and buy safety equipment.
Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said he had concerns about requiring guns in schools and questions about how many trained employees would be needed if in case the designated person was away.
"I don't think that the step is needed," Smith said. "This was hurriedly done, and it has not been thoroughly thrashed to the degree I think it ought to be."
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he supported the proposal as a way to improve school security without being "prohibitively expensive" by requiring police officers at all schools.
"The idea is to have some way to defend the children in case someone were to break through the security," Long said. "We think that's important that there be some armed resistance."
Representatives of school, teachers and police organizations testified before the House committee on Tuesday. But most offered little comment on Lucas' proposal, which was described for the first time during the meeting.
However, Todd Bess, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Principals, said schools have worked for years to establish safe environments and that he believed that can be done without having firearms in every building.
Frank Bush, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, said he worried that schools would need to hire additional employees where current staffers wouldn't want the additional responsibility.
"I don't see anything wrong with the notion of having someone in the school that can provide that kind of protection," Bush said.
While the state has about 1,850 public schools and 70 charter schools, the proposal would allow multiple schools on a single campus to share a protection officer. The provision would require schools to have those employees designated by the start of 2014.
Lucas said schools could have multiple employees be trained and allowed to carry guns, a possibility that worried Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie.
"Personally, I'd rather see it limited rather than have a lot of guns around children," Errington said.
Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, said he believed the proposal is "a great idea" although high training standards
will be needed to assure the public.
"We want to make sure there's somebody trained that can stop them before they kill 25 people," Burton said.
Shelters like Hope Alive are full, as temperatures in Fort Wayne hit single digits.
Police want to remind you to be extra cautious when meeting up to buy stuff off sites like Craigslist. This warning comes after a man in Fort Wayne was robbed at gunpoint Sunday.
A recent TripAdvisor survey said 53 percent of travelers will drive to their destinations instead of fly this holiday season. 25 percent of those people said it's due to the cost of airfare.
Mayor Tom Henry's administration wants to loosen Fort Wayne's residency rules to increase the talent pool for skilled workers.
Frostbite affects people in our area every year and with some of the coldest air of the season in place and plenty more to come, you need to know how to stay safe while outside in the bitter air.
Dave and Cindy Murphy of Indiana Organ Procurement Organization joined Gina Glaros on First News Sunday to talk about being an organ donor.
A Fort Wayne doctor who was accused of overprescribing his patients is now accused of firing one of his employees who was serving on the jury for former Indianapolis police officer David Bisard's trial back in October.
An office manager from an Indianapolis church has been accused of taking thousands of dollars from the church. She's now facing felony charges.
The trio will perform at the Embassy Theatre on March 19 with tickets for the general public going on sale this Friday at 10 am.
Police pulled a car over for speeding last week and found more than a half pound of marijuana inside of the car's glove box after the passenger refused to open it.
Aptera Software, Inc. announced plans Tuesday to expand its Fort Wayne operations, creating up to 17 new jobs by 2016.
Residents along the East Coast and in the Appalachians woke up to snow Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.
The more than 10,000 members of the Healthy Indiana Plan will have their benefits continued through April of 2014 because of issues related to the federal health exchange.
The Attica Police Department is investigating after a 1-year-old pit bull is shot in her family's backyard.
Lynne Gilmore, Executive Director of Anthony Wayne Services Foundation joined Gina Glaros on First News Saturday to talk about the annual Fantasy of Lights.