INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana state Senators advanced a bill Tuesday that would make state funding available for teachers seeking firearms training, a move critics have said could increase the number of guns in school to the detriment of students.
The 42-8 vote comes after this past weekend’s three-day National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis, which fell on the second anniversary of a mass shooting in the city at a FedEx facility that killed nine people.
The House bill first advanced in February, amid teachers’ objections that having additional guns in schools would worsen school safety. On Tuesday, two Democrats joined all Republican state Senators in voting for the bill.
Supporters have said the 40 hours of optional training would help teachers learn how to defend themselves and students if needed, especially in situations with an active shooter. State law currently allows school districts to permit teachers to be armed, but no training is mandated.
The proposed training would be voluntary and paid for by the state. Schools could also apply for such funding in the event of a school shooting “to cover the costs of counseling” for students, teachers and other school employees, the bill states.
Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Travis Holdman said before Tuesday’s vote that he wished the training was mandatory, “but we can’t get that as a General Assembly, because I have tried that for the last number of years.”
Efforts by Indiana lawmakers to offer additional training failed in recent years amid opposition from both gun-rights advocates, who said training mandates would overstep local control, and gun-control proponents, who argued against steps they see as arming teachers.
“How is 40 hours of training going to prepare you to shoot a kid in your classroom?” Democrat Sen. Andrea Hunley questioned on Tuesday. “This is not going to stop school shootings.”
Over the weekend, thousands of the NRA’s most active members gathered at the downtown Indianapolis convention center. Speaking before a cheering crowd Friday, former President Donald Trump called to arm teachers.
The event also took place after recent mass shootings at a school in Nashville and a bank in Louisville, Kentucky — and on the same day that a shooting erupted at an Alabama teenager’s birthday party. Last year’s NRA convention followed the massacre at a school in Uvalde, Texas.
In the previous legislative session, Indiana lawmakers repealed a permit requirement for those carrying a gun in public. All residents age 18 or older — except those with a felony conviction, who face a restraining order or have a dangerous mental illness — can carry a handgun in public.
That bill faced opposition from the Indiana police superintendent and several statewide law enforcement groups, who said eliminating the permit system would endanger officers by stripping them of a screening tool for quickly identifying dangerous people.
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter.