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Monday, March 10, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "GOP lawmakers hostile to opponents of guns at schools proposal" [Updated Twice]

Hmm, here is a story on one of this morning's conference committees, reported by Dan Carden of the NWI Times, that begins:

Republican state lawmakers defending their plan to allow Hoosiers to carry guns in school parking lots were accused Monday of bullying conference committee witnesses who argued that guns at schools will make children less safe.

State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, repeatedly challenged opponents of Senate Bill 229, at one point going so far as to pull up the resume of Zionsville's Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and questioning her personal and professional affiliations with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other political action groups.

He was joined by state Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, who bizarrely yelled that his wife has the right to carry a gun, while Watts testified that women and children are more likely to be killed than a criminal if there is a gun in the home.

Later, state Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, joined in, laughing at the idea that the Second Amendment provides for potential restrictions on where guns can be taken.

State Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, the conference committee chairman, did nothing to rein in his colleagues, especially Lucas, who took four turns questioning a witness -- usually only one chance is allowed -- and shushed another when she dared to ask him a question in response.

Tomes also insisted that guns already are too regulated and licensed handgun carriers never do any wrong.

While watching the two-hour spectacle, state Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, tweeted: "Bullying...it doesn't just happen in schools."

[Updated at 1:54 PM] Here is another story, this one by Chelsea Schnieder of the Evansville Courier & Press (oddly, no paywall, right now anyway). A sample:
Lawmakers sitting on the conference committee that will ultimately decide the final version of the legislation had, at times, heated exchanges with opponents of the bill.

Opponents characterized allowing guns to remain in school parking lots a major policy shift that would provide access to weapons and restrict local school boards from making policy. Supporters of the bill – namely Republican lawmakers who spoke out on the measure and a representative from the National Rifle Association – said the measure would protect the constitutional rights of a gun owner to keep a firearm locked in a car in the parking lot without running the risk of committing a felony.

As associations representing Indiana superintendents and principals testified against the measure, their representatives were repeatedly asked if they thought a licensed gun owner should face a felony charge if they left a firearm in a locked vehicle in a school parking lot.

In his first time chairing a committee hearing, Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said he’s had teachers and assistant principals ask him to get the bill passed so they aren’t treated “like a criminal.”

The legislation would allow licensed gun owners to keep their firearms inside a locked vehicle in a school parking lot as long as it’s out of sight.

“I know this is a concern that a lot of people have,” Tomes said. “I don’t think (in) any of these shootings occurred in our schools – as tragic as they are – that it was someone who took a gun out of a car on school property.”

Shannon Watts, a mother of five children from Zionsville, Ind., and founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the legislation would allow loaded guns near children in a place where they should feel safe. Watts recalled the Newton, Conn., shooting where 20 children and six staff members were killed in 2012 as an example of why “unregulated access to guns must be limited and not encouraged.”

“Schools do not want firearms on their properties and neither do the mothers of Indiana,” Watts said.

In one of the more tense exchanges, Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, asked Watts if she felt his wife as a mother of three and former school teacher should give up her right to self protection as she goes to and from school.

“Your premise that women are somehow made safer by a gun is factually incorrect,” Watts said.

Eberhart answered Watts by asking why his wife’s rights should be precluded and that his wife, “has the constitutional right for self protection.”

Here is Niki Kelly's story for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. (She also tweeted about it as the meeting was going on.) Some quotes:
A move to allow guns in school parking lots drew testy exchanges Monday between citizens opposing the bill and Republican lawmakers defending it.

The meeting got so heated that one Democratic legislator called it bullying.

“I think the behavior of some of the committee members was a little over the top,” said Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson. “They were disrespectful to those expressing concerns. Bullying doesn’t just occur in schools.”

But Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour – one of the more vocal members – said he was just refuting misinformation.

“We have to make sure people have the facts,” he said. “It’s imperative that we respect the rights of the individual.”

The meeting was the first to hash out differences on Senate Bill 229. No final compromises were reached.

The legislation originally dealt with law enforcement gun-buyback programs. But the House added language that would allow Hoosiers with firearm permits to have a gun in their locked vehicle parked at a school if it is out of sight.

Under current law it is a felony to have a gun on any school property. It still would be a felony to take any firearms into the school.

Supporters contend citizens – such as teachers and parents - deserve the right to self-protection that having a gun affords going to and from school.

And Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, kept saying the bill was about protecting “legitimate, proper citizens” – not criminals.

Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond – who served as a cop for decades – took exception to the notion that no one with a carry permit can be irrational or have a problem with anger or rage.

More from Kelly's comprehensive story:
A coalition of groups against that provision has grown in recent weeks, including a number of school organizations and children’s groups.

“Having guns on school property that are very accessible adds potential for what may occur,” said Todd Bess, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Principals.

And Stephen Dunlop, of Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence, said, “There are certain areas where it is simply inappropriate to bring a gun.”

He noted people aren’t allowed to bring guns to courthouses or even to the Statehouse.

It got especially heated when Zionsville mother Shannon Watts, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, testified.

For every statistic she used, Lucas countered from a book he carried. For every statement she made on mass shootings, another lawmaker would refute.

Lucas even pointed out her maiden name and read a list of her previous jobs to note her expertise in media and marketing.

And Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, called her disingenuous for supporting background checks and other gun regulations but claiming to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.

A representative from the National Rifle Association spoke in support of the bill, but no private citizens did.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 10, 2014 01:58 PM
Posted to Indiana Government