Ohio bill reducing gun training for teachers heads to DeWine

The Ohio Senate passed the bill mostly along party lines on Wednesday.
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 4:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2022 at 2:32 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXIX) - A bill drastically reducing the training hours needed to carry a gun in Ohio schools is headed to the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine.

The Senate passed the Republican-sponsored bill, HB 99, on Wednesday by a vote of 23-9. The House passed the Senate version Wednesday night after passing a version of its own in November 2021.

DeWine says he will sign the bill. His full statement is below.

As of June 13, Ohio will be a permitless carry state, but people will still need a license to take guns into schools.

Currently, teachers, custodians and bus drivers must complete 728 hours of training to carry on school grounds in Ohio, the same required of peace officers. HB 99 would reduce the minimum number of required hours to 24 for initial approval and eight hours every year afterward.

“This is the most important thing we have done to prevent school shootings in Ohio,” said Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg).

Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) countered, “You know why that’s the most important thing you’ve done? Because you haven’t done anything else. It’s that simple. There’s a whole lot more we can do.”

Thomas, a former police officer, contended a “small portion, a smidgen” of the proposed training hours would be dedicated to firearm instruction.

“To simply put guns in our schools as a solution to this problem is not a solution at all,” he said, later adding, “There’s no reason we should be allowing a weapon of war in the hands of our average citizens.”

“This is not what our teachers want. Not only do our educators and parents oppose the idea of guns being present in classrooms, but law enforcement itself does not support the bill,” said Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) in a statement Thursday.

The training, per the bill, could be waived if the person has a certificate of completion from an approved basic peace officer training program.

Those wishing to carry on school grounds would have to submit to an annual criminal records check.

The decision of whether school employees can be armed on school grounds would remain up to local school districts, and school districts would have discretion to require additional training on top of the bill’s minimum requirements. They would be on the hook for funding it.

School boards would have to inform parents, by whatever way the board normally communicates with the public, if school personnel are authorized to be armed. Whether parents would know which teachers are armed remains unclear. School districts would be required to keep a list of authorized carriers, but the list would not be eligible for public records requests.

“Since I introduced this bill last year, it has always been about protecting both students and staff at our schools across the state,” said Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown), the bill’s primary sponsor. “School safety has always been my priority. In emergency situations at our schools, seconds matter and tragedies can be prevented - in my district, we saw it firsthand.”

Hall says his father, who was a Madison High School resource officer, chased a shooter from the school back in 2016.

“What we’re doing here is offering schools the flexibility to craft a solution that they feel is right for their buildings, their schools and their students,” said Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon). “We have to remember if you’re in the city, you may have a uniformed officer who is in your building every day. But I can assure you that is not the case in many areas of Ohio, in areas where help may be many minutes away.”

The main thrust of HB 99 creates a bureaucratic apparatus under the Ohio Department of Public Safety called the Ohio School Safety and Crisis Center, staffed by a newly created Ohio Mobile Training Team, which would exist in part to help schools develop crisis response plans.

The Mobile Training Team would also take over responsibility for developing the training curriculum and overseeing the approval of persons wishing to carry guns on school grounds, a task currently given to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

Thomas Hall, who sponsors HB 99, spoke Thursday about why he introduced this bill.

“I didn’t write this legislation to be a burden to teachers; I wrote this legislation to try and help schools,” Hall explained. “I think that we’ve done that with making sure that we’re putting forth the best legislation to enhance and protect the school’s safety.”

Ohio Federation of Teachers Vice President Shari Obrenski called HB 99 a “one-sided bill” that will open the “floodgates to allow more and more guns in schools, which can be deadly in the wrong hands[...]”

She continued, citing school shootings involving semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15, “Given recent events at Robb Elementary and other mass shootings it is very clear that arming teachers while active shooters have automatic weapons and body armor isn’t the answer. Teachers should not have to bear this burden.”

Thomas, speaking with a “Do Something” button pinned to his lapel, decried the bill as a “reactive” approach to school safety. He referenced red-flag laws, universal background checks and other measures as proactive approaches to “minimize the potential of an individual getting his hands on certain types of guns that will limit his ability to carry out his actions.”

A Republican senator, acknowledging the pertinence of mental health issues to school shootings, responded, “Are you not gonna do anything until you do everything? That’s not gonna happen.”

HB 99 follows a 2021 Ohio Supreme Court ruling striking down Madison Local Schools’ policy of requiring just 24 hours of training for certain teachers to carry guns at school.

Said DeWine:

“Last week I called on the General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow local school districts, if they so chose, to designate armed staff for school security and safety. My office worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety and to ensure training requirements were specific to a school environment and contained significant scenario-based training. House Bill 99 accomplishes these goals, and I thank the General Assembly for passing this bill to protect Ohio children and teachers. I look forward to signing this important legislation.”

Nan Whaley, who is running against Gov. DeWine tweeted:

“Gov. DeWine must put the safety of Ohioans ahead of his campaign donors. I’m calling on him to stand with police officers, teachers, and the majority of Ohioans and veto this dangerous bill. Failure to do so puts our children, their teachers, and school employees at risk.”

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro and Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper say the bill will make Ohio students less safe in their schools. Their joint statement, released Wednesday night, reads in part;

“The safety of Ohio’s students and educators is our utmost priority, but we know putting more guns into school buildings in the hands of people who have woefully inadequate training—regardless of their intentions—is dangerous and irresponsible. Teachers and other school employees should not be asked to serve dual roles as educators and school safety personnel armed with weapons, but, if they are, rigorous training standards, as set under current Ohio law, are essential. House Bill 99 guts those requirements, capping the state training requirements at 24 hours and putting educators in the impossible position of making split-second life-and-death decisions without sufficient training. This could undoubtedly lead to more tragedies in our schools.

“Governor DeWine has acknowledged this himself. When he served as Attorney General, he stated, “It’s not just about can I [armed school staff] shoot a gun. That’s just a small part of it. It’s: Do I have enough training to be able to react so that my training goes into effect, and I don’t end up shooting someone who’s innocent?” (Dayton Daily News, Jan. 28, 2014). He then asked the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission to develop recommendations for appropriate training for school personnel, and the model curriculum was set at approximately 150 hours of training. We now ask the governor, what has changed that would make you say 24 hours of training is enough to arm educators today? The answer is nothing has changed. Twenty-four hours is not enough.

“Our students need to be in safe learning environments where they can focus on getting a world-class education; they should not have to worry about what could happen with a gun in the hands of an undertrained individual in their classrooms with them. More work is needed on House Bill 99, and more work is needed by the Ohio legislature to address the needs of our students and educators, like prioritizing mental health resources and enacting common sense gun safety reform. We strongly urge Gov. DeWine to do the right thing and veto House Bill 99.”

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