Noblesville parents advocate for change after school shooting

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. -- Parents in Noblesville are coming together to advocate for change in the wake of the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in May.

For some, the memories of May 25 are still fresh, and their motivation to make a difference is strong.  It's why they formed the group "Noblesville Stands Together."

"We are lucky our kids came home by the Grace of God," said parent Jeff Armstrong. " I can't look at my son today and do nothing, I just can't."

Thursday evening, a handful of members of the group gathered in a kitchen to explain their efforts.

"Hopefully serving as an example to our elected leaders that if people like us who are Republicans and Democrats, gun owners, non-gun owners, if we can come together with the diverse opinions that we have here, that they can, too," said parent Steve Rogers.

The parents are focused on three issues. The first is mental health resources, and finding ways to identify and intervene when students are at risk. The second is implementing physical measures for school security and the third is responsible gun ownership.

Member Hyde Heckman said their first priority was helping a referendum for Noblesville Schools pass earlier this year. Now, they're reaching out to state lawmakers.

"Of course now we're kind of thinking about the legislation and what we need to do right now. We're talking about doing some letters and some other things and kind of rallying the troops to let everybody know what they need to do and communicate to others on what they need to do in order to try to get legislation passed," Heckman said.

Group members said they'd support closing loopholes in Indiana's firearm background check system and extending the background check requirement to all guns sold.

"We feel that there are a few things out there that the vast majority of people agree on. So surveys and polls have shown that close to 90 percent of people agree on universal background checks, so that's one thing that we'd love to see bipartisan support for in the legislature," said parent Nathan Lambert.

They'd also like to see criminal penalties for allowing a child to access a negligently stored firearm.

"We're not anti-gun, we're anti-school shooting," Lambert said. "A common denominator to all these school shootings is that a kid had their hands on a gun that shouldn't have."

At the Statehouse, State Sen. Jim Merritt is working on legislation of his own.

"We have seen a national problem here," Merritt said.

There's no language down yet and no bill is filed right now.

"It just all depends on the language. I don't support the idea that everybody has to have a gun safe," Merritt said. "But I do support the aspect that mom and dad are liable if a child has given them some reason to believe they're dangerous. And then they go and shoot up a school, I believe mom and dad have to be liable and it's just all according to how you write the law and we're taking our time and thinking about it and this doesn't have anything to do with the national type of approach that people are talking about, has nothing against the NRA, it's about responsible gun ownership and really personal responsibility."

Merritt thinks the legislation will be a "heavy lift" but believes there's a chance.

There are differing opinions on the topic.  State Rep. Jim Lucas questions how you define safe gun ownership.

"You can't. Plus, that does nothing to stop someone committed to murdering others and could actually end up costing lives in the event someone needs to get to their firearm in an emergency," Lucas said in a statement. "The 'loophole' is a myth on background checks. Less than 1 percent of criminals get their guns at a gun show and over 90 percent of mass shooters passed a background check. To lie on the federal background check is a federal felony, yet the prosecution of these felonies is almost non-existent. Background checks only affect the law-abiding citizen and do absolutely nothing to stop someone that has no regard for life or law."

Thursday, tragedy struck another Indiana community when a teenager took his own life at a middle school in Richmond. The facts aren't all known yet, but it hit home for the Noblesville parents.

"It motivates us to keep moving forward and getting the message out that we can do something, we're not powerless," said parent Anita Rogers.

"We don't want to just be a statistic. It's time to go champion change," Tara Bushong said.

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