Indiana off-duty law enforcement officers may soon be allowed to carry a handgun while inside any of the state’s 13 commercial casinos as the national debate continues on how to best respond to mass shooters or similar threats.
The state’s Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Wednesday permitting the change in law by an 8 to 3 vote. Senate Bill 291 next heads to the full Senate for consideration and later the House.
The legislation also prevents officers with guns from drinking alcohol while in the casino. The armed officers would be prohibited, too, from entering a casino after drinking.
The bill comes after some Indiana county sheriffs said they want to have guns with them in case there is a mass shooting in the casino, according to the NWI Times.
In a time of crisis, seconds matter,” Dave Wedding, Vanderburgh County Sheriff and a Democrat, was quoted by the newspaper. “You cannot fight a gun absent a gun.”
Under current state law, police can carry guns in a casino if their “sole purpose for being in the casino is the performance of official duties,” the NWI Times said.
Also, the officer must tell the Indiana Gaming Commission or enforcement agents in the casino, that he/she is armed.
If the legislation is approved, the Indiana Gaming Commission would be prevented from implementing any restriction on an officer from carrying a handgun in a casino, the newspaper reported.
Civilian players are now blocked from carrying guns into casinos. That ban would not change under the proposed legislation.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Ron Grooms, R- Jeffersonville.
Violent Casino-Related Deaths
Nationally, casinos have been the scene of some grizzly crimes. Last month, three players were shot dead in Montana’s Emerald City Casino. The assailant was later located by officers and shot dead in a stand-off with police.
Last June, a Montana man admitted to decapitating a fellow player with a hatchet after the victim won some money at Lil’s Casino in Billings in 2017.
The headless torso was found on a dirt trail near a transient camp close to Billings. The head was located some 30 feet away, wrapped in a towel under a pile of leaves.
A medical examiner said the victim was probably alive when the assailants started cutting off the head.
In 2018, in the same city, a police officer shot and killed a man who was armed with a CO2 gun inside of Lucky Lil’s Casino. Last year, a court ruled the Billings officer was justified in his use of force.
Debate Continues About Arming Teachers
The extent to which to arm people in public venues does not focus only on casinos. Nationally, a debate continues whether to arm teachers in public schools in case a shooting takes place.
President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos support arming educators on school property. Supporters say that way teachers can respond immediately to a shooter, instead of students and faculty waiting minutes for the arrival of police officers.
Many teachers and education unions oppose the idea. A 2018 Gallup poll revealed some 73 percent of US teachers do not want to carry guns in school buildings.
But some school districts already let teachers carry weapons. For instance, in Ohio’s Tuscarawas County five school districts already let teachers carry weapons on school property. At least eight states permit teachers to carry guns while at school, news reports add.