INDIANAPOLIS | 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; 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 asked him a question in response.
Tomes also insisted 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."
She said afterward the actions of those lawmakers set the wrong tone for reasonable consideration of the proposal.
"I thought the behavior of some of our committee members and advisers was a little over the top," Austin said.
Senate Bill 229 would allow a licensed firearms carrier to bring guns onto school property, provided they are kept out of sight in a locked vehicle. It separately requires municipal gun-buyback programs only be paid for using private funds and not tax dollars.
Supporters of the measure, including state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, said Hoosiers who regularly carry a firearm and may unexpectedly get called to their child's school shouldn't face a possible felony, as provided under current law, just for bringing a gun onto school grounds.
But state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, and other opponents, noted the proposal's definition of a school as a building "used exclusively by a school for a school function," opens the door for guns potentially to be brought inside private schools attached to churches, and even public schools that host nonschool events.
The legislation also is opposed by the state associations of teachers, superintendents and school boards.
Tomes, Eberhart, Lawson and state Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, are tasked with devising a compromise proposal that must be approved by both the House and Senate by Friday to go to Republican Gov. Mike Pence for his signature or veto.