Indiana Governor Mike Pence approved the change to allow firearms in locked vehicles on school grounds by signing Senate Enrolled Act 229 into law last month. “The corporation will follow state law,” said Jim Witmer, school resource officer for Monroe County Community School Corp. Currently, Witmer and law enforcement officials are the only people who can have a firearm on school property. If a student brings a gun to school, they will be expelled for at least one year.
While Witmer isn’t yet certain about how the new law will impact security protocol at the school, “It’s still going to be troublesome,” he stated. He points out that SB 229 doesn’t allow someone to carry a firearm on their person or into the school, but the new law makes it harder to determine intent. “Intent isn’t known until the act,” Witmer said. Someone with a gun in their locked vehicle may have simply left it there and forgot about it after a hunting trip. On the other hand, they may have less benign reasons.
In addition, Witmer doesn’t think the change in the law will make schools more secure. “I don’t necessarily see it as anything that’s going to make students and faculty any safer,” he said. “In the event of a true emergency, you’re not going to be able to access a weapon in a vehicle in time to make a difference.”
“Guns in close proximity to schools raises public safety concerns,” said Chris Gaal, Monroe County prosecuting attorney. He noted that prosecutorial discretion already allows for flexibility when someone breaks a law. The prosecutor can decide whether or not to file a criminal charge and what charge to file in an incident where someone forgot that their firearm was in the car when they drove onto school property.
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