INDIANAPOLIS - An altered proposal to allow guns in Indiana school parking lots drew criticism on Tuesday from opponents worried easy access to weapons could lead to future school shootings.
The House Public Policy Committee passed the bill 8-2 Tuesday along party lines after tense debate on whether to allow guns in school parking lots as long as they are stored and concealed in a vehicle.
"What about the disgruntled ex-husband who loses it on his teacher wife?" said Nicki McNally, Indiana chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "Under this amendment, those individuals can just walk out to their car, retrieve their weapon of choice...and end things impulsively, quickly and with deadly results."
The original bill would have banned gun buy-back programs, which opponents say sell guns undervalue and have a questionable effect on crime.
Cities and police departments sometimes use gun buy-backs to encourage residents to give up guns without penalty.
Buy-backs still would be allowed in the new version, but would have to be privately funded.
The amended legislation comes in the wake of a shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012. The shooting sparked national debate on how to best prevent gun violence at schools and spurred legislative action in Indiana.
Tuesday's hearing pitted gun-rights advocates against Democrats looking to keep guns away from schools. Lucas said the measure aims to protect parents who inadvertently commit a felony if they have their guns with them when they stop to pick up their children.
"We're not looking to bring firearms into schools; we're just trying to provide a common-sense solution for the innocent peaceable person," Lucas said. "I'd ask for people to look at the facts. Let's not get caught up in emotion."
But how frequently parents come across legal battles after nipping into school for an unexpected meeting with a teacher and leaving their gun in the car, for example, is unclear, Lucas said. Spokeswoman Krista Stockman said she hasn't heard of any complaints at Fort Wayne Community Schools, and Lucas said he doesn't know if data exist that tracks the issue.
The proposal is one of several measures on guns at schools Lucas has tried to push through in recent years. A similar bill died in committee this session, and last year Lucas introduced failed legislation that would have required armed guards at schools.
Although the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents has shown support for similar bills in the past, Stockman said Fort Wayne doesn't want "anyone besides a trained law enforcement officer having guns on our property." She said easy access to a gun poses a danger if volatile emotions get out of control, and even having a gun in the car in case of a school shooting likely would cause more harm than good.
"School safety is our top priority," Stockman said. "For us, we really think that is best left to the trained expert."
The bill now goes before the full House for review. Approval from the full chamber and governor is needed before the bill becomes law.