While some national lawmakers eye new limits on access to guns in the wake of last month's school shooting in Connecticut, two Republican state senators are trying to expand who can carry guns and where in Indiana.
Sen. Jim Banks of Columbia City has proposed allowing students to carry firearms on Indiana's public university campuses. Sen. Dennis Kruse of Auburn wants a bill that would exempt guns made exclusively in Indiana from federal rules and regulations.
The measures face little chance of success in the General Assembly this year. But Banks said Tuesday that lawmakers should still have an open, wide-ranging discussion about guns that highlights both arguments for and against increased access.
Banks said Indiana members of the national group Students for Concealed Carry asked him to propose the bill concerning carrying firearms on campuses. He said the group is pushing for increased gun access at colleges and has a large membership of female students that's focused on protecting women on campus.
"That's what's compelling about this issue, is how many female students there are around the state, who have very specific and real reasons to be afraid for their own safety on their campus," he said. "The number of sexual assault cases on campuses is alarming."
Kruse is proposing that anyone who makes guns in Indiana from parts made in the state and then sells them in the state be exempted from all federal gun regulations.
"Part of it is exercising our 10th Amendment rights, that Indiana can have our own laws and have those laws pertain to our state and if it's not specified otherwise, than I think we ought to be able to control our own things in our state and not have the federal government continue to just monopolize everything that we do in our lives," Kruse said.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, filed the measures proposed by Banks and Kruse in the Senate rules committee, a move that typically signifies a bill's dead for the session. But he said while Banks' proposal regarding firearms on campuses "has some problems," legislators are "really inclined to talk about it to see if there's more we can do with the bill."
Members of Indiana's Black Legislative Caucus said they would support any national effort to reduce gun violence and are ready to support new federal limits.
"One of the things that is happening around the country is that those persons that are interested in gun control are beginning to assemble," Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said Tuesday. "You've got your police chiefs, you've got your sheriffs, and you've got your mayors. So what we want to do as a caucus is be sort of a place where people can go in order to get our support."
The response in Indiana to the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead in Newtown, Conn., has been somewhat muted. Incoming Gov. Mike Pence has said he plans a statewide review of school safety plans, but has declined to say whether he would make any changes to the state's gun laws — either to increase or decrease access.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, have proposed spending $10 million to hire more law enforcement to protect Indiana schools and students, but Zoeller pointed out his office began investigating the need to expand the state's corps of "school resource officers" well before the Connecticut shooting.