INDIANAPOLIS - Republican Gov. Mike Pence isn't throwing much support behind a proposal that would require Indiana schools to have an employee carrying a loaded gun during school hours.
The governor's office released a statement Tuesday saying Pence "believes that decisions about school safety and security should be made by local schools, with support from the state."
The bill approved by an Indiana House committee would require a new school protection officer. The officers could be police officers or school employees as long as they met training standards set by a statewide school safety board.
Sponsor Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, said a state board created by the bill would determine the level of training the guards would receive.
Lucas said guards are needed because too much damage can occur waiting for police to arrive, adding that at Sandy Hook, the principal did everything by the book and still couldn't save the kids.
"And from the time the initial call was made until the police showed up and engaged the shooter, there were six adults and 20 children that were murdered," Lucas said. "Now an incident like that could have changed drastically had that principal had the training and the means to defend, not just herself and her staff, but the children as well."
Lucas said current law allows schools to do this but most don't, which is why the state must force them. But Democrats, similar to Pence, oppose the bill for that reason.
"It would be a mandate, and I am for those types of decisions being made at the local level, at the school district level," said Superintendent Glenda Ritz, D. "And they should be the ones determining the officers and the types of officers that are going to be in our schools."
Democrats are upset that the changes were sprung on them with no notice. Vernon Smith of Gary, who served two decades as an elementary school principal, said there are too many questions to move this quickly.
"Do you carry the gun visibly on you? Is it in a locked secure place? What happens if there's a mishap? There's just a lot of issues," Smith said.
Democrats say this is such a major step that they would like to see the idea sent to a summer study committee to hash out all of these questions, but Republicans are anxious to move on this topic and are unlikely to grant such a delay.
The governor's statement says he supports local efforts to make schools as safe as possible, but doesn't directly state a position on requiring armed school employees.