Both houses of the Indiana legislature voted Thursday night to approve a bill permitting guns on school grounds. The bill now goes to the state’s conservative Gov. Mike Pence (R) for his consideration. If Pence signs the bill, it would permit parents, teachers, school visitors and students who belong to high school gun clubs to keep guns in their locked cars in school parking lots, although it does not permit them in school buildings or buses.
The bill’s supporters defend it on the grounds that it will allow gun owners to continue to carry a firearm while they are traveling to and from a school, but it is difficult to defend on the grounds that the National Rifle Association previously offered for allowing guns on school campuses. In a press conference following the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre, the NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre argued that “gun-free school zones” should be eliminated because they prevent armed individuals from shooting a gunman intent on mass murder before his killing spree begins. Indeed, this press conference was the source of LaPierre’s claim that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
LaPierre’s claim that more guns prevent murder by allowing potential victims to engage in self defense is highly dubious. In 2010, for example, there were 8,275 criminal gun homicides but only 230 justifiable homicides, so self defense killings are quite rare. But even if one accepts his premise that guns in schools will permit armed individuals to stop mass shooters, the bill that passed the Indiana legislature will do nothing to advance this goal. Should a gunman arrive on an Indiana campus, the NRA’s “good guy with a gun” will have left his firearm in his car.
An examination of factors “associated with firearm deaths at the state level” published in The Atlantic finds that “firearm-related deaths are positively correlated with the rates of high school students that carry weapons on school property (.54).”