Lucas not facing discipline for flashing gun to students

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, right, speaks with House Majority Floor Leader Matt Lehman, left, before the Indiana House session on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. (Credit: Mark Curry)

Feb 01, 2024

Rep. Jim Lucas hasn’t faced any disciplinary action from legislative leaders for flashing his holstered handgun this week while speaking with high school students advocating for gun control laws at the Statehouse.

Lucas told State Affairs on Thursday that he shouldn’t have opened his suit jacket to show the teenagers his gun but otherwise defended his interaction.

House Speaker Todd Huston said the roughly 10-minute video of the Statehouse corridor exchange, first reported by The Statehouse File, was largely “civil about a very sensitive topic.”

“I had a chance to watch the full video, and he just, simply put, should never have opened his jacket,” Huston told reporters Thursday about Lucas, a Republican from Seymour.

“I told him how I felt and we’ll move forward,” Huston said.

Lucas is among the most vocal advocates of gun rights in the Legislature, having sponsored numerous bills loosening gun restrictions since he was elected to the House in 2012.

The video shows Lucas speaking with students from Burris Laboratory School in Muncie, who were at the Statehouse on Tuesday for advocacy activities organized by Moms Demand Action.

At the 5:50-minute mark in the video, one of the teens says Australia has strict gun laws and hasn’t had a mass shooting in years. Lucas responds, “Those people are dependent upon what their government tells them what they can and can’t do. They’re not free. They’re not truly free if you can’t defend yourself.”

When a student asks Lucas whether he means carrying a gun, he says, “Yes, I’m carrying right now,” and opens his suit jacket for a few seconds to show a holstered gun on his right hip.

One teen then says, “Nothing about someone carrying a gun makes me feel safe. It makes me feel threatened.”

Lucas replies she’s talking about “feelings” while “people who want to kill you don’t care about your feelings.”

Legislators and legislative branch staffers are allowed to carry firearms inside the Statehouse under an exemption the General Assembly approved in 2017 to the ban on the public and other state employees from doing so.

Lucas told State Affairs on Thursday that he was “shocked” at the attention the video has generated.

He said he believed his action was “taken out of context” because “it’s a gun issue. That’s always a sensitive topic.”

“If I had things to do over again, I would not have opened my coat,” Lucas said. “Obviously, seeing the outcry that this created, whether warranted or unwarranted, I still enjoyed the conversation with the young ladies. There were a lot of great facts that were introduced to them and, hopefully, if I can make just one of them think, in a calm, rational manner, then I will have been successful.”

Asked about his conversations with Republican caucus leaders about his actions, Lucas responded, “Good, good. I mean, it’s just one of —”

Lucas then paused for about eight seconds before saying, “Let’s just leave it at that.”

Democratic Rep. Sue Errington of Muncie criticized Lucas for making the students “feel unsafe and unwelcome” at the Statehouse.

“As legislators, we should encourage our youth to be involved in the legislative process, not scare them away,” Errington said. “It is unfathomable that these young activists were met with such behavior. I encourage Rep. Lucas to offer an apology to these students and reflect on how he engages with Hoosier students in the future.”

As the video became a widespread discussion topic at the Statehouse, Huston put off action Thursday on two Lucas-sponsored bills for House votes until Monday. One bill would allow police agencies to trade confiscated firearms for new weapons; the other would create a state medal of honor for first responders.

“Today wasn’t the best day to take action on those bills,” Huston said. “They’re strongly bipartisan. Both those bills went through committee with unanimous support, so today wasn’t the best day to take action.”

Tom Davies is a Statehouse reporter for State Affairs Pro Indiana. Reach him at [email protected] or on X at @TomDaviesIND.

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