Chyung: Gun bill short-changes mental health, school safety

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INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Chris Chyung (D-Dyer) said today he will oppose legislation that would allow teachers to carry guns in Indiana classrooms because it short-changes local efforts toward improving mental health services and other safety measures in schools.

Chyung attempted to improve House Bill 1253 this week by offering proposals that would have ensured proper training and background checks in the process. However, those proposals were rejected by the Indiana House majority.

“One of my greatest concerns about this bill is its use of money from the Indiana Safe School Fund toward arming teachers,” Chyung said. “It bothers me that, if you are going to put a price tag on school safety, this bill places a higher priority on firearms in the classroom. Every dollar spent for that purpose takes away from school districts that desire to use the fund to improve mental health services. I think it is imperative that we use our resources for mental health professionals, rather than classroom commandos.”

One of the changes Chyung proposed to House Bill 1253 that was rejected by the House majority would have ensured that the program did not use dollars from the Safe School Fund.

Other changes suggested by Chyung called for:

  • Any participant in the program to submit to National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS), and have no history of domestic abuse, any conviction of a violent crime (including domestic violence), or illegal possession of a firearm.
  • Any teacher to successfully complete firearm instruction before being authorized to carry in the classroom.
  • Excluding virtual schools from the training program.

Throughout this session, Chyung has supported legislation to strengthen mental health services in Indiana schools.

Earlier this month, he supported an amendment from State Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) to House Bill 1225 that would have made more school corporations eligible to apply for grant funding from the Secured School Fund for mental health and other school safety measures. The House majority voted down the amendment because of concerns about the fund running out too quickly.

Chyung also supported an amendment from Pfaff that would allow school corporations to use money from the Secured School Fund to provide school-based mental health services to students. The amendment was adopted into House Bill 1004.

“From the start, I have opposed any plan that arms teachers in Indiana classrooms,” Chyung said. “However, I also realize that the House majority has the votes needed to sign this bill into law, and I attempted to make sure the plan had a higher standard of safety. I am disappointed that those efforts were rejected, and I intend to vote against House Bill 1253. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on our efforts to strengthen the mental health part of the equation when discussing school safety.”

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