Noblesville parents disappointed after statehouse session want more done for school safety

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Later this month will mark one year since a student opened fire in a classroom in Noblesville West Middle School, injuring a student and teacher. Since that time, there has been another school shooting in Indiana and others across the country. Lawmakers have also completed another session at the Indiana Statehouse. But since session ended, some Noblesville parents are expressing disappointment in how it played out.

Sitting around a kitchen table Thursday night, Steve Rogers, Stephanie Lambert and Jeff Armstrong are linked by something they don't want anyone else to go through. Their kids were at NWMS last May.

"I don't know how much longer we can continue to watch these things and it becomes normalized. This is not the world we want our kids living in. This should be shocking to everybody every time it happens," Steve Rogers said.

Following the shooting, the parents banded together to form the group Noblesville Stands Together. Ahead of the legislative session, they said they wanted to see changes regarding mental health, school security and responsible gun ownership.

"So we worked very hard during the legislative session to try and educate legislators about our viewpoints, and suffice it to say, we're pretty disappointed with the outcome," Rogers said.

"I was very new to the legislative process. I had never really spent time at the statehouse at all. I was excited to be a part of that, and very interested in being a part of that. I was somewhat shocked and dumbfounded how the process actually worked," Lambert said.

"We had just come off, as Steve mentioned, two school shootings here, and the answer to that was more guns in our schools, and I can't fathom how the answer to school shootings is more guns in the school," Armstrong said.

The parents acknowledge measures were taken to physically secure schools. According to state information, more than $100 million has been invested to improve building security, fund school resource officers and perform threat assessments.

"We need to start thinking about how do we keep somebody from becoming dangerous; how do we keep that person from getting a gun," Rogers said.

But the parents said they wanted lawmakers to do more to tackle mental health, a gun owner's responsibility to make sure children don't have access to the firearm and on background checks.

"There were a lot of great mental health bills that were introduced by various legislators, however, it seemed, you know, that at the 11th hour, those bills were blocked," Lambert said.

"We recommended a universal background check bill which we couldn't even get anyone to author," Rogers said. "So what they did do, as Jeff said, they passed a bill saying that if there's a church on school property, you can bring a gun there. Why that would be the reaction to school shootings in Indiana is beyond any parent who's lived through it."

Some legislation was passed regarding firearms, and other attempts were made at lawmakers' own solutions.

"These laws that people keep wanting to add to and add to and add to--the only thing they're doing, they're making it more difficult for the law-abiding, innocent, responsible person to be able to protect themselves and their loved ones or others against people that have no regard for life or law," Rep. Lucas said.

Rep. Jim Lucas authored a bill on firearm training for teachers he said he plans to bring up again next year.

"It's a great piece of legislation because one, we don't go backwards and it is optional, and it's a program designed by people we trust to train our police officers, and it's paid for by the state," he said.

Another bill passed prohibiting someone from purchasing a firearm if deemed dangerous by a court and was signed into law.

"It also  says that an individual who would give a firearm—to knowingly give a firearm—to an individual they know is dangerous, commits a level five felony, and if you possess a firearm and aren't dangerous, you commit a class a misdemeanor," the bill's author, Rep. Donna Schaibley, said.

An attempt was made to put language in the legislation regarding when a minor can get a firearm after they've committed a crime equivalent to what would be a felony, but it didn't pass.

"I actually support the idea that an individual who commits a violent crime with a deadly weapon when they're a minor, should not be able to get a firearm once they're 18 or 21. I absolutely agree with that, though, it's just that I did not feel the legislation had been totally vetted and I had some concerns about it," Rep. Schaibley said. "I checked it out with several people who kind of had some concerns about the language as it was written. I totally support the idea. I just think that we--and I offered--and I said that I will bring that back next session, and I will work with them on it to get it passed."

Meanwhile, the parents in Noblesville aren't giving up.

"You redouble your efforts. You make sure your message is correct, and you go back and fight harder," Armstrong said.

"The one thing that's become clear to me is we had two very violent incidents at schools in Indiana, and that did not fundamentally change the trajectory of this conversation," Rogers said.

The parents said they plan to work to expand their group to include more communities.

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