EVANSVILLE — Local lawmakers skirted a question about gun laws Friday morning during E-REP's 2024 Legislative Preview.

Sen. Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville), Rep. Matt Hostettler (R-Fort Branch), Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) and Rep. Tim O'Brien (R-Evansville) were all in attendance at the event, which was moderated by Sally Rideout who is a E-REP lobbyist and previously served as a state representative.

E-REP is an organization focused on advancing business and economic development in the Evansville region. Friday's event took place in the Walnut Room at the Bally's Casino complex.

Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville), Rep. Cindy Ledbetter (R-Newburgh) and Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) had prior commitments and were not in attendance.

During the Q&A portion of the event, an audience member asked a question first about prostitution and human trafficking, then posed a question about gun violence.

The audience member first mentioned Tomes' bill, SB 14, to allow a state officer in the elected office of attorney general, secretary of state, state comptroller or treasurer of state to carry a gun in the capitol. He also talked about advocacy from Moms Demand Action, a mainstay organization at the Indiana Statehouse that works to promote safety measures to protect people from gun violence.

He brought up the school shooting in Perry, Iowa Thursday in which a 17-year-old student shot and killed a sixth-grader, injured an administrator and four other students and then died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Raising the age to purchase a gun, working on requirements for parents securing their firearms, both were ideas offered by the audience member before asking legislators for theirs.

"I'm just wondering, what are you going to do this year to actually prevent these kinds of attacks?" he asked.

McNamara addressd the first part of the question regarding human trafficking, offering clarifications on the differences between it and prostitution, but the second half would go unanswered. None of the other lawmakers in attendance addressed either part of the question.

"I appreciate the sentiment and the concern, and legislators are free to respond," Rideout, the moderator, said. "Obviously, handguns are not a portion of the E-REP priorities or policy decisions that we're talking about here today."

E-REP's 2024 legislative priorities are: creating opportunity, strengthening the workforce, ensuring affordable healthcare, driving regionalism and investing in education.

E-REP's public policy priorities for 2024 were announced as: completion of Interstate 69, upgrading infrastructure, fortifying talent, elevating regional success, strengthening community health and embracing diversity and inclusion.

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