In line with his history of support for gun rights, Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Wednesday a measure to allow adults to keep guns locked in their vehicles in school parking lots.
Without the fanfare of a ceremony like he held for the signing of bills to cut business taxes and assist veterans, Pence’s quiet approval came over the opposition of several school organizations that raised concerns the move would compromise safety.
“Governor Pence believes in the right to keep and bear arms,” spokeswoman Kara Brooks wrote in an email, “and that this is a common sense reform of the law that accomplishes the goal of keeping parents and law-abiding citizens from being charged with a felony when they pick their kids up at school or go to cheer on the local basketball team.”
Current law can make it a felony for legal gun-permit holders to even inadvertently have their guns in their vehicles while they drop off their children at school. The new law, which takes effect July 1, removes that prospect.
The National Rifle Association and lawmakers who supported the measure said the change was needed to protect the Second Amendment rights of legal gun carriers.
Some school groups questioned the decision.
“There’s been so much concern about school security and school safety, so why would we do something that has the potential of easily jeopardizing that with readily accessible guns in cars on school property?” asked JT Coopman, executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.
He said he wasn’t surprised by the Republican governor’s decision, given Pence’s vocal support for the Second Amendment during his 12 years in Congress.
“I guess my next thought is, are (lawmakers) going to take responsibility for a shooting that takes place as a result of this?” Coopman said. “Whether it be a student, or whether it be an angry parent that maybe would have taken other courses of action, had these guns and weapons in cars not been so readily accessible?”
Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee told The Star last week that he wanted Pence to veto the bill: “Young people, schools, guns and all of that is a mix for something inappropriate.”
(NOTE: Dubois County schools are on spring break this week. NNDC will followup with local school officials to get their reaction to the new law when they return)
Under the new law, teachers, parents and school visitors can keep guns concealed and locked in their cars in school parking lots. Student gun club members also could have guns in their cars with permission from school principals.
State Rep. Jim Lucas, a Seymour Republican who originally proposed the idea this session, said he didn’t believe allowing guns locked in vehicles would lead to school shootings. Shooters, he said, won’t be worried about following laws.
Guns are still banned in school buildings and on school buses, lawmakers said.
Star reporter Eric Weddle contributed to this story. Call Star reporter Stephanie Wang at (317) 444-6184. Follow her on Twitter: @stephaniewang.