INDIANAPOLIS – Licensed gun owners would be able to legally have firearms in vehicles on school parking lots under a bill passed 74-24 by the Indiana House on Monday.
Right now it is a felony to have a gun on school property, including parking lots and buildings.
But under Senate Bill 229, Hoosiers with proper carry permits can keep firearms out of sight in locked vehicles on school property. If the gun is in sight or the vehicle is unlocked, it would be a misdemeanor. It would still be a felony to carry the firearm into the building.
The bill would apply to parents, teachers and other adults on the property. But students would be allowed only if they are members of a shooting club and have permission from the principal.
“These are common-sense fixes,” said Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville. “Don’t make law-abiding gun owners felons for exercising their right to self-protection.”
The Senate author of the bill, Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said he will dissent on the measure, sending it to conference committee, because the House gutted the original legislation on gun buyback. And he said he needs to review the provision about allowing firearms in school parking lots.
Several Democrats pointed out the new law affects all schools – private, public and charters – taking away the right of local school boards to regulate guns on property.
Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said someone who becomes angry will likely cool off if they have to go home to get a gun but won’t be as rational if they can simply grab it from their car.
“That’s what concerns me about this bill. I think we’re going into an area where next we will say you can take the guns into school,” he said. “You are insensitive to the loss of life and the safety of the children and educators responsible for those children.”
Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, asked everyone to take a deep breath and not get emotional about the bill.
He said 23 states already recognize the right of a law-abiding soccer mom to leave a firearm in a vehicle while attending a game or meeting with a teacher.
And Eberhart pointed out public shootings that were stopped by armed citizens.
“No law is going to stop people intent on those kinds of actions,” he said, noting a list of school shootings offered.
Area Republicans supported the measure, and Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, voted no.
The bill also limits local law enforcement from using taxpayer money on firearm-buyback programs. Private grants and donations could be used to cover the costs.