Anxiety leads to staff training for safety at Statehouse

"This is a unique environment here at our Statehouse in that it's legislated a gun-free zone to all civilians but the staff is able to arm themselves," said Tami Watson, instructor for Watson Chambers Defense Institute, on Oct. 20, 2017. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dozens of state lawmakers and staff received voluntary personal safety training Friday after several expressed anxiety over recent crimes in the area.

George Angelone, executive director of the Legislative Services Agency, said his job is to serve the Statehouse staff. He organized the training at their request.

“The staff had indicated that they wished to be better prepared for any event that could arise,” Angelone said. “We work late during the evenings, weekends, times when there aren’t a whole of people around.”

There was a shooting on the Indiana Statehouse grounds in January, and many remember U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Virginia, was targeted by a gunman at a congressional baseball practice in June. Those incidents and others led to Indiana Senate Bill 43 becoming law. It allows Statehouse staffers to carry a firearm with a license on the campus grounds.

“This is a unique environment here at our Statehouse in that it’s legislated a gun-free zone to all civilians but the staff is able to arm themselves,” said Tami Watson, instructor for Watson Chambers Defense Institute.

Watson led the courses Friday, instructing three groups throughout the day — including one session for women only.

“This is the No. 1 target in the state of Indiana,” said Watson, referring to the Statehouse out the window. “If you wanted to create a real news splash so to speak, if you were intending harm, there’s no better way than when session is in full swing and there’s a big demonstration going on, couple hundred of civilians in this building plus legislators. And you’re in the state capital.”

She said Friday’s awareness training is important to helping business professionals unplug, become aware of their surroundings, and actually say something when they see something.

“Today is a very basic class. It involves mindset, situation awareness. It also involved cooperating with law enforcement,” said Watson, a 18-year veteran of the Indiana State Police.

Angelone said the class heard some common sense advice along with a mixed bag of practical applications.

“For women who carry a purse, many of them would be carrying their purse so it covers their right arm, but the right arm is the dominant arm, the arm that you’re going to use to push someone away,” Angelone said. “The suggestion was to move it to your less dominant arm.”

Watson said it’s all to start the process of putting Indianapolis on the defense and making it a safer city one citizen at a time.

“It concerns me a lot in that I don’t think we’re as prepared as we could be for a bad situation,” Watson said.