Armed school staff bill, reducing training hours needed, passes Ohio legislature

A bill allowing people to carry guns in schools with as little as 24 hours of training cleared the Ohio Senate 23-9 on Wednesday.

State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., introduced House Bill 99 in February 2021. It passed the House in November but languished in a Senate committee until the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 elementary school students and two teachers died. Now HB 99 goes to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.

The bill allows local school boards to decide whether they want to allow more armed personnel, including teachers and other staff, in their school buildings.

It creates the Ohio School Safety and Crisis Center within the state Department of Public Safety and appropriates $6 million this fiscal year and another $6 million next year for its operation. Through a Mobile Training Team, the center would offer training for personnel at school districts that approve more armed personnel.

“Initial instruction and training may not exceed 24 hours and annual requalification training may not exceed 8 hours,” says an analysis by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Research Commission. “However, the bill also specifies that its provisions do not prohibit a school district or school from requiring additional training.”

School districts would have to pay for that training. They could adopt alternative training so long as it includes the same subjects as the state training.

State Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, said trainers must be licensed law enforcement officers or veterans who meet state Department of Public Safety standards.

People seeking to carry guns in schools would be subject to annual state and federal background checks.

The nearly two-hour Senate debate grew acrimonious, with both sides accusing the other of hypocrisy.

Democrats decried the drastic reduction in the amount of required training. Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, said most of the new requirement isn’t even gun training but education on crisis intervention, first aid and other subjects. State Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, said the training would be less than required to become a nail technician or Little League umpire. The Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission now recommends at least 152 hours (19 days) of training, she said.

State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, said school districts could require more training than the bill’s minimum. He and state Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, said Ohio’s large cities may have police near schools, but rural counties may have only a few law enforcement officers that are miles away from a school.

State Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, framed the bill as a response to public calls to “do something” about gun violence. Many Democrats in the General Assembly wore red “Do something” buttons, referring to the public chant that greeted DeWine in the aftermath of the Oregon District mass shooting in August 2019.

Johnson said many arguments against the bill were actually “anti-gun” arguments and blamed school shootings on the “breakdown” of the traditional family and religious values.

“These are the real problems,” he said.

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