COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – An Ohio bill allowing education staff to carry guns in schools with reduced training is on its way to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.
On the heels of a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that left 21 people dead, the bill was fast-tracked through the Statehouse Wednesday, with the Senate voting 23-9 in favor of the bill, and the House approving it just hours later with a 56-34 vote, with nine abstentions.
The bill, House Bill 99, allows any adult in a public or private school to carry a concealed firearm in a school’s safety zone if a district chooses to do so without the 737 hours of peace officer training required by current law.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Madison Township), passed the House in November with a 59-33 vote but was returned to the House for a concurrence vote after the Senate’s passage.
DeWine said in late May that he asked the Ohio General Assembly to pass the bill to implement “adequate, scenario-based training” for education staff.
At a hearing before the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee Tuesday, the overwhelming majority of speakers who testified spoke in opposition of the bill, including many individual teachers and representatives from the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and Ohio Federation of Teachers.
“Asking teachers who are already overburdened to add more to their plate by serving in a dual role where they’re both responsible for educating children and now in some cases where this might be implemented for armed security in schools, we think is not really addressing the issue,” Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro said.
Under the bill, school staff who wish to carry a handgun are required to undergo only 24 hours of training, as opposed to the current 737-hour peace officer training requirement. Schools are free to require more than the 24 hours mandated by the bill.
The training breaks down as follows:
- 18 hours of general training
- Two hours of handgun training
- Two hours of “additional” general training
- Two hours of “additional” handgun training
“If any district is going to pursue this option, you have to make sure the staff are adequately trained, and this bill really guts training requirements and that’s our No. 1 concern,” DiMauro said.
Proponents of the bill, like Rob Sexton, legislative affairs director for the Buckeye Firearms Association, said there’s an element of local decision, as individual school districts are able to decide whether to allow certain staff to be armed. allowing local school districts to decide whether to allow certain staff to be armed
“For me, I think it gets down to this: Do we want our kids to have a fighting chance in the event that the worst happens, right? And for us, we’d just like a school to be able to have that option. Allows local school districts to make their own decisions,” Sexton said.
It’s unclear whether Ohio’s upcoming “constitutional carry” gun law — which permits Ohioans aged 21 and up to carry a gun without a concealed carry permit — will have an effect on this requirement for teachers.