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Statehouse legislative workers won't be able to bring guns

February 26, 2016

Legislative employees at the Indiana Statehouse will not be able to bring their handguns with them to work after lawmakers shelved a measure allowing them to do so.

The Indiana Senate last month approved the bill that would have allowed legislative employees to carry weapons in the Statehouse, but it was effectively shelved after a House committee didn't take action on it as of late Friday. Monday is the last day for lawmakers to give bills hearings and the Public Policy Committee is not scheduled to meet again.

Bill author Sen. Jim Tomes, a Wadesville Republican, sponsored the bill and said his main concern was for Statehouse employees to be armed and be able to protect themselves outside of the building. He cited recent the uptick of shootings in Indianapolis and how Statehouse employees have to walk blocks away to their vehicles to go home.

"I think it's critical that people understand you're not going to have a U.S. marshal attached to your hip wherever you go," he said.

Chairman Tom Dermody, a Republican from LaPorte, said his committee had other bills it needed to consider and ran out of time. Still, he would not say if he would have supported or opposed the measure if it would have been brought up for a hearing.

State law currently permits law enforcement officers, judges and lawmakers to carry handguns in the Capitol building.

Another controversial measure that failed would have allowed people with multiple alcohol-related misdemeanors to be eligible for handgun licenses. Tomes said he withdrew the alcohol-offender proposal after it received widespread criticism, including from advocates for domestic violence victims and gun control advocates.

"I could not get them over this hump to be able to process what the bill was doing," Tomes said. "It was just too difficult to keep them on point in committee."

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that advocates for gun regulation, also opposed the bill and the concept of rolling back restrictions.

"We're grateful to our lawmakers for doing the right thing and stopping this bill," Stephanie Grabow, leader of the Indiana chapter, said Friday.

Current law prevents people who have had felonies, domestic violence convictions and mental illness from obtaining a handgun permit.

The bill would also remove a question from handgun permit applications that asks applicants if they have ever been convicted of drunken driving.

Tomes said he won't introduce the bill again, but hopes to revive the Statehouse weapons proposal in future years.

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