As 80,000 gun-rights enthusiasts begin rolling in to Indianapolis for the National Rifle Association’s annual convention this week, legislation involving guns are in the final stages of becoming law.
The House and Senate voted Monday to approve the final version of House Bill 1284, which gives immunity from civil lawsuits to someone who uses justifiable force to protect others. The House voted 64-17 for the measure, which also allows people to bring guns to churches that hold services in schools unless the building specifically prohibits weapons. The Senate later voted 37-7 for it, clearing the way for it to go to Gov. Eric Holcomb to likely be signed into law.
Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, reminded his colleagues that the need for the bill was affirmed in a 2017 incident. An Ohio County woman, Kystie Phillips, fatally shot a man who was trying to wrestle a holstered gun from an off-duty Indiana conservation officer. Phillips was sued by the man’s family, though a court later dismissed the lawsuit.
Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, told the Senate the bill will shield someone from a lawsuit if they justifiably used force — including deadly force — to protect another individual from harm.
Under the measure, plaintiffs would have to pay attorney’s fees and court costs of someone they sue if the force used was found to be justified.
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, argued the measure went too far.
“What’s ironic about this one, this immunity is more than we give police officers, people who are trained and suppose to protect us,” Taylor said. “In this bill, we are going to give a civilian more protection than we do a law-abiding police officer. See, a police officer if they shoot somebody in the line of duty, the city can still be sued civilly.”
Still awaiting House and Senate votes on a final version is HB 1651. The bill, authored by Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, states that someone deemed a “dangerous person” cannot apply for or receive a handgun license and that law enforcement will confiscate any firearm that is owned by a dangerous person. Any firearm seized by law enforcement will be held by police for 180 days after which the owner can then petition for its return.
The bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor for a person deemed dangerous to try to obtain a gun and a Level 5 felony for someone to intentionally give a dangerous person a gun.
Also pending is HB 1253, a school safety measure. The bill, also authored by Lucas, creates a specialized firearm safety education and training program for teachers, school staff and school employees. Upon completion of the program teachers would be permitted to carry handguns into school buildings.
The bill also permits teachers and school employees to be shot with projectiles during an active shooter drill if they agree in writing to that. A January incident drew national attention when Monticello school teachers were shot multiple times with pellet guns during an active shooter drill. Despite the provision in HB 1253 being voluntary, teachers have opposed the measure, including at a Statehouse rally last week.