Indiana panel to change school guns mandate bill

The Sandy Hook massacre sparked a national debate over how to keep schoolchildren safe.
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Indiana could become the first state to require schools to have weapons on hand to protect against potential attackers.

Lawmakers are considering making it mandatory for Indiana schools to have an employee with a loaded gun on campus at all times. 

Supporters of the requirement say it would lessen the vulnerability of schools to violent attacks. The issue of arming school employees has risen to the fore after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December.

Lawmakers take public testimony to hear what the public is thinking about a particular bill. On Monday, the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee heard public testimony from someone who has gone through the experience of a school shooting.

Carol Craig gave state lawmakers a very different perspective Monday: That of experience. "I had just returned from a meeting at the central office and was heading back to my school at dismissal time, when I heard on the radio that a student had been shot on the bus as it was leaving the parking lot. I cannot convey the shock, dismay, pain and anguish to know that that school bus was one of mine."

Former IPS Principal Carol Craig was talking about a shooting at her school, John Marshall, in September 1991.

"The question that stayed with all of us was what could have prevented that shooting?" she said.

The same question that now resonates around the entire country after the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But the aftermath brought a very different perspective.

Back at that time, now over twenty years ago, then-Principal Craig told Eyewitness News, "There were some kids saying, 'Would we have some help after school on the bus? Will we be safe?'"

Monday morning, Craig, who now works with the Indianapolis Chapter of the NAACP, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee.

"At that time no one discussed whether the officers or anyone else should have been armed. Exchange of gunfire on the street while children were on the bus and walking home was not a part of our discussion," she said.

Instead she says the focus was one ways to better reach troubled youth: revising the safety plan, more counseling, more social services and more trust. She added that there was an armed policeman inside the school at Columbine but it didn't help.

"As a principal I cannot imagine any of my staff having to concentrate on all the activity of keeping students learning and moving forward and engaged and having the additional responsibility of being able to fire a weapon in an instance and still protect the children," she said.

Peg Paulson of a gun control group called Moms Demand Action told the Ways and Means Committee that such a mandate would be "reprehensible."

Republican Gov. Mike Pence and other state officials have said they don't believe the state should mandate that local schools have armed employees.

So far, South Dakota is the only state to respond with a new law allowing school personnel to carry guns into elementary and high schools. A similar proposal is poised for passage in Kansas. Arkansas has enacted a new law allowing colleges to let staff with concealed gun permits bring their weapons on campus.

Meantime, Indiana House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown says he expects changes to the proposal, which would require all public and charter schools to have an employee carrying a loaded gun during school hours. Brown said his panel would consider amending the bill.