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Column: Decriminalizing storage of firearms reason for amendment proposal

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In a March 7 column, the director of the Franklin College School of Journalism, John Krull, ironically used his First Amendment right to reference me personally more than 20 times for defending our Second Amendment rights. I’ll let his words speak for his views, but I want to explain why I proposed my law allowing firearms in a locked vehicle on school property.

I proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 229 to decriminalize the storage of a lawfully carried firearm in a person’s vehicle on school property. SB 229 does not allow an individual to bring a firearm inside a school and does not allow students to have a firearm on school property unless they are a member of a shooting team and have school permission. As a parent and moral person, the safety of students and school staff concerns me as equally as the safety of all people.

There are currently over 538,000 Hoosiers with a LTCH (license to carry handgun). This number saw an 83 percent increase over the prior year, with the largest increase being among women. People are realizing that firearms provide them the most effective means of self-defense available.

However, to subject innocent people, who intend no harm, to a D felony charge, as we currently do, and treat them the same as a person who possesses child pornography or has committed involuntary manslaughter is reprehensible.

Many schools are enacting safety policies requiring parents or guardians to leave their vehicles to sign for children. Hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers go to schools every day to meet with teachers and staff or attend school events and also lawfully carry a firearm. SB 229 would protect those who wish to go about their daily business from being infringed or possibly having their lives ruined by a felony charge.

If keeping students and staff safe is the goal, we should look at the real deadly weapon in a school parking lot, the automobile. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there were more than 36,000 vehicle deaths in 2012, and according to the FBI, there were approximately 8,800 homicides by firearms in the U.S. in the same year, of which 80 percent were gang- or drug-related.

This means there were fewer than 1,800 homicides by firearms that were non-gang- or drug-related, out of a country of approximately 310 million people. Unless you are involved with gangs or drugs, your chances of getting killed by an automobile are about 20 times greater than being killed with a firearm.

Vehicles also are significantly the greatest cause of death to teenagers. What presents the greatest threat on school property, a lawfully owned firearm locked in a vehicle or the student or staff member driving through the school parking lot talking or texting on his cellphone? Based on the facts, the vehicle is the true deadly weapon in the parking lot of a school, not the firearm.

There were approximately 200 school shooting homicides between 1996 and 2014. There are approximately 2.5 million deaths in the U.S. each year, which means there were approximately 60 million to 70 million people who died or were killed during that time frame.

While every death is tragic, 200 deaths out of 60 million show that the possibility of being killed with a firearm on school property is incredibly rare. As a reminder, every one of these deaths on school property occurred in a so-called Gun Free Zone.

Currently, there are 23 states that have parking lot provisions regarding firearms and 40 states that recognize some form of lawful firearm carry on school property.

With more than 300 million firearms in America and tens of millions of people who lawfully carry a firearm every day, we simply are not seeing the carnage that is constantly being predicted. As a note, to help with firearm abuse, I co-sponsored SB 169, which dramatically increases the penalty for gun-related offenses.

Other facts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that each year in the U.S., there are more than 500,000 deaths from heart disease and obesity, approximately 195,000 deaths by medical errors, and approximately 26,000 people who die in accidental falls. Even accidental deaths from falls are almost three times the rate of total firearms homicides.

SB 229 is a good law based on our constitutionally protected individual rights, truth, facts, reason and logic. I hope this helps to put things in perspective.

Jim Lucas is the state representative for District 69, which includes parts of Bartholomew, Jackson and Jennings counties.

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