Republican Gov. Mike Pence said Thursday he believed local school officials should make decisions about school security, separating himself from a legislative proposal that would require all public and charter schools have an employee armed with a loaded gun during school hours.
The Republican leader of the state Senate also said that schools shouldn't face such a mandate as state officials look for ways to improve school safety.
Indiana would become the first state in the country to require armed school employees if the bill — approved this week by a state House committee — becomes law. Supporters of the requirement say it would lessen the vulnerability of schools to violent attacks such as the December elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 students and six teachers died.
The plan, however, is facing questions over whether people not trained as police officers, such as teachers or principals, should have the responsibility, as well as questions about the potential costs school districts would face to ensure a trained armed person is present during all school hours.
Pence said during a Statehouse news conference that protecting children was among his highest priorities, but he expressed no support for requiring armed school employees.
"I have a strong bias for local control," he said. "I think decisions that are nearest and dearest to our hearts ought to be made by parents and local school officials. I believe that's so in this case."
State law currently allows school districts to authorize people other than police officers to have guns on school property, although several officials have said they don't know of any district that have done it.
The provision's sponsor, Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, said he knew the proposal would face controversy but worried that most of Indiana's some 1,900 public schools are defenseless against possible attackers without properly trained and armed people present.