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INDIANAPOLIS – Republican Indiana lawmakers want the state to pay for handgun training for teachers.

Indiana law allows school districts to determine their own gun carry policy. That wouldn’t change under House Bill 1177, but the legislation would create statewide training standards for teachers with guns in the classroom.

“Gun-free zones do not mean it’s a gun-free zone,” State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) told the House Education committee Wednesday.

Lucas, the bill’s author, said that’s why he’d like to see more teachers armed at school.

“The ultimate goal would be to have such a deterrent out there that nobody ever even considers this,” Lucas said.

The bill would allow the state to pay for firearms training for school staff members. To receive the state funds, teachers would have to follow the statewide curriculum outlined in the bill, which requires 40 hours of training.

According to Guy Relford, an attorney and firearms instructor, that’s the same number of required hours as an Indiana law enforcement officer.

“Obviously retention’s important,” Relford said. “Marksmanship and safety, including marksmanship in a dynamic environment.”

According to the Indiana State Teachers Association, as of last year, two to three school districts statewide allowed staff members to carry guns at school.

The union is neutral on the bill since it doesn’t mandate teachers be trained or armed. That remains voluntary for school districts and their staff members.

Still, Democrats are opposed.

“The bill is designed to put guns in classrooms, which I think is a fundamentally bad idea,” said State Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis).

DeLaney argues there are better ways to keep schools safe.

“The way they want to defend the schools is by taking money out of other programs to protect our students, such as having legitimate guards, having barriers, having proper locking systems,” he said.

The bill passed in committee on a 9-4 vote along party lines. It now heads to the House floor.