Lucas creates stir with gun comments to student

Jim Lucas [email protected]

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, caused a stir at Monday’s Third House session while answering a question posed by a 12-year-old student from ABC-Stewart School in Columbus.

Student president Jackson Brewer, a sixth-grader, asked the four legislators attending the Third House session at Donner Center, including Lucas, Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus and Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, about their opinions on pending state legislation that would allow teachers to receive handgun training if they so desired and permit retired law enforcement officers to carry firearms on school property.

Lucas told the nearly 60 people in audience, including four ABC Stewart students, that he believes gun control laws won’t prevent school shootings, training teachers to use firearms can make schools safer and that a federal court has ruled “police do not have a duty to protect children while they are being slaughtered.”

After Lucas answered Brewer’s question, the student had a follow-up question: “Do you believe the more guns that are being carried, including in this room, would make my classmates and I safer?”

Lucas immediately said “absolutely” and then told the crowd “I’m carrying right now. Does that scare anybody?”

Around 20 people, or roughly a third of those in the room, raised their hands to signal that it scared them. Several other people said “yes” without raising their hands. There also were a few people who said “no.”

After the event, Lucas said he was carrying a .50-caliber 1911 handgun at the Third House session, adding that he carries a firearm everywhere he goes — including in the Indiana House of Representatives chamber and in the Statehouse. Donner Center, where Third House was held, is a Columbus city parks facility.

Lucas has repeatedly said Indiana should only have one gun law, Article 1 Section 32 of the Constitution which states “the people shall have a right to bear arms, for the defense of themselves and the state.”

“So you consider me a threat, but I’m not going to threaten anybody,” said Lucas said to the audience during the Third House session. “…I encourage everybody, one, take it serious, train and carry and be able to defend yourself because now it’s a morality issue. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I cannot fathom me expecting another person, a police officer, a total stranger, to risk their life to save mine when it’s perfectly within my ability to do so.”

He continued, “Police do not have a duty to protect you. You are on your own as ruled by the United States Supreme Court. Period,” he added.

Jerry Maulin, a team leader who teaches second through sixth grades at ABC Stewart and took the students to Third House, said he was “somewhat disappointed” that the other lawmakers didn’t comment on the student’s question about gun legislation.

The purpose of attending the event, Maulin said, was for the students to learn that there are multiple sides to issues, but they ended up only hearing one side of the gun debate.

“I’m not surprised by (Lucas’) comments,” Maulin said. “I understand that it is probably his main issue. …I was somewhat disappointed that the other members (of the General Assembly) didn’t have any comment on it. They kind of let him dominate (the conversation).”

Brewer, through Maulin, said he felt Lucas answered his question.

“He said he thought Rep. Lucas answered his question. He felt like Rep. Lucas really likes guns. He also said he felt many in the room were startled when Rep. Lucas revealed he was carrying a gun right there in our meeting,” Maulin said.

“It was kind of startling when Rep. Lucas shared that he was carrying a weapon,” Maulin said.

“‘Children being slaughtered,’ to say that to school kids, I don’t know,” Maulin said.

In a telephone interview after the event, Lucas said he hoped students who attended would “start to think for themselves.”

“I hope they would start to think for themselves and apply reason and logic,” Lucas said Monday afternoon. “That church shooting (in Texas) provides a perfect example. There are no guarantees in life. No matter what we do you can’t ever guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen.”

To back up his claim, Lucas, who allowed that he is not an attorney, repeatedly cited a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case, Castle Rock v. Gonzales, as well as a recent lawsuit involving a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The U.S. Supreme Court case involved a dispute about police failing to respond to a violation of a court-issued protective order, The New York Times reported. While in violation of the order, a woman’s estranged husband murdered her three children, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In 2018, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled in a similar fashion, finding that “neither the school nor sheriff’s deputies had a legal obligation to protect students” from a gunman who opened fire and killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018, according to a story in The Washington Post.

Columbus Police Department spokesman Lt. Matt Harris said while he is not familiar with the legal cases Lucas referenced, “a big part” of the police’s role is “to keep the community safe.”

“We’ve worked for a long time to make sure that not only adults are safe here in the community, but also youth, from the extra steps working with the school corporation to have resource officers in the schools to building relationships with the DARE Program and with students,” he said.

“Anytime there is an unsafe situation, we want young people feeling comfortable coming to a police officer and letting them know,” Harris said.

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For more on Monday’s Third House session, see Page A4.