A video taken by a high school student shows an Indiana lawmaker flashing a gun to students who were visiting the statehouse to talk to legislators about gun control.
A student from Burris Laboratory School in Muncie told The Associated Press she and four other students were at the state Capitol on Tuesday to participate in a day of advocacy with Students Demand Action, an arm of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Alana Trissel, 17, said state Rep. Jim Lucas asked the students what brought them to the Capitol and began to defend gun rights.
Lucas, a Republican from Seymour, and the group then conversed outside the elevator and one of the students filmed the interaction, which was first reported by the Statehouse File, a student journalism news site at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana.
In the video, Lucas told the students people have to protect themselves and referenced failures of law enforcement to prevent mass casualties during school shootings in, and ,
In discussing places where firearms are banned, Lucas said people aren’t “truly free” unless they can defend themselves. A student off camera asked Lucas if he means carrying a firearm.
Just over six minutes into the 10-minute video, Lucas said, “I’m carrying right now,” and holds open his suit jacket exposing a holstered handgun. It wasn’t immediately clear what kind of gun Lucas was carrying.
“Nothing about someone carrying a gun makes me feel safe,” a student said off camera after Lucas lifted his jacket.
The Associated Press couldn’t immediately reach Lucas on Wednesday and left messages with his press secretary and at his Facebook page. Phone numbers in public records listed with his name were not connected.
In public Facebook posts on Tuesday night and on Wednesday, Lucas didn’t describe his actions. He said the conversation “was respectful, but it was clearly facts, reason and logic vs. plain emotion.”
“I fear for, and pity those that are being indoctrinated to fear that which is their best means of self-defense,” he added in a post Wednesday, in which he also linked to news articles about the Parkland and Uvalde killings in the comments section. “People are also being indoctrinated to depend on government for their ‘safety,’ even when shown that government has clearly ruled that government doesn’t have the duty to protect us.”
Trissel said the conversation took a “turn for the worst” after he showed the weapon.
When asked by a student why he feels the need to carry a gun, Lucas said “to be able to defend myself.”
Trissel disputed Lucas’ claim that the group’s argument was based on emotion and she said she felt talked over.
“Since a state legislator had shown a weapon, I felt all the more powerless,” she said. “I felt scared. I felt alone. I was timid and almost petrified with fear.”
Indiana lawmakers and their staff are allowed to carry handguns in the Capitol and on complex grounds. A bill introduced this year would extend that right to some statewide elected officials and their staff.
The video shows Lucas telling the students to go to a gun range and learn how to shoot, before Trissel interrupts him and asks if he has lost anyone to gun violence. Lucas said he has defended his family twice with a firearm, but didn’t elaborate.
Lucas eventually begins to walk away and asks, “Anybody else have any rational concerns they’d like to address?” When the conversation began again, he walked away.
Trissel said that after speaking to Lucas and other state representatives about gun control, she left the Capitol feeling unheard.
Lucas was in the news last summer when he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving charges after police said he crashed his pickup truck through an interstate highway guardrail and drove away. Lucas, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2012, was allowed to keep his position; state law only prohibits those with felony convictions from holding elected office.
Lucas is a prominent supporter of loosening gun laws and sponsored a bill last year that established a state-funded handgun training program for teachers.
According to a report from The Republic of Columbus, Indiana, Lucas told students at an event in 2020 that gun control laws won’t prevent mass killings at schools and that he was carrying at the moment. He then asked if that scares anyone in the audience, the report says.
He has faced controversy several times in the past for what critics called racist social media posts.