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Part of gun ban on school property lifted

INDIANAPOLIS – State lawmakers widened gun rights in Indiana on Thursday by eliminating part of a ban on having firearms on school property.

"Teachers don't leave their Second Amendment rights at home when they go to work," said Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

Senate Bill 229 passed the Senate 38-10 and the House 75-24.

It now goes to Gov. Mike Pence for his consideration.

Under the measure, Hoosiers with legal 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.

Right now, it's a felony to have a gun anywhere on school property. It would still be a felony to carry the firearm into any school building or on buses.

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.

Supporters contend that citizens – including teachers and parents – deserve the right to self-protection that having a gun affords going to and from school. The bill affects both public and private schools.

"I think this remains a very reasonable balance," said Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville.

But schools and education groups have decried school boards losing the right to control the rules of their own property.

"Schools can be a combustible workplace," said Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend.

Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, asked Eberhart for examples of Hoosiers being charged with a felony, but he didn't have specifics.

"I think we're trying to search for a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist," he said. "I'm going to vote no because I don't want to be anywhere near the potential unintended consequences we won't be able to correct."

Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, said former students with carry permits can now legally bring guns to football games. And he said if a quarrel escalates, they can simply go to their car for a gun.

"We are asking for trouble," he said. "This is bad, bad legislation that can only lead to bad things."

GiaQuinta and Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, were the only northeast Indiana lawmakers to oppose the bill.

nkelly@jg.net

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