Lawmakers consider loosening training requirements for armed school staff

The Ohio Senate could vote as early as Tuesday on a bill that would loosen training requirements for school district employees who are authorized to carry concealed weapons on K-12 campuses.
The Ohio Senate could vote as early as Tuesday on a bill that would loosen training requirements for school district employees who are authorized to carry concealed weapons on K-12 campuses.

The Ohio Senate could vote as early as Tuesday on a bill that would loosen training requirements for school district employees who are authorized to carry concealed weapons on K-12 campuses.

In 2016, state law changed to allow school districts to permit staff to carry weapons. But a ruling in March from the 12th District Court of Appeals determined that those staff members would have to complete 700 hours of basic peace officer training before carrying firearms at school.

State Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, who lost a GOP primary race for a seat on the 12th District Court of Appeals in April, is sponsoring Senate Bill 317 to essentially un-do that court ruling in Gabbard versus Madison Local School District.

Coley, chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, said the majority on the three-judge panel reached an “erroneous conclusion” and that it should be up to local school districts to determine how many hours of training are needed for staff authorized to carry weapons on school grounds.

Madison Local Schools required employees to take a 27-hour training course offered by FASTER Saves Lives, an affiliate of the Buckeye Firearms Association.

In 2018, parents in the district mounted a legal challenge, seeking to block the school district from arming staff without peace officer training or 20 years experience as a police officer. Everytown Law represented the group of parents.

SB317, which is scheduled for a committee vote on Tuesday, is supported by the National Rifle Association and Buckeye Firearms Association. It is opposed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Ohio Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. It could receive a Senate floor vote Tuesday afternoon.

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In February 2016, a 15-year-old boy, Austin Hancock, opened fire on classmates in the Madison Jr./Sr. High School cafeteria. Two students were shot; two others were injured during the melee. Hancock was sentenced to juvenile detention until age 21.

In the aftermath, the district adopted a policy to allow concealed weapons to be carried by school personnel who voluntarily participate and acquire training.

State officials don’t keep a list of which districts allow teachers and staff to carry concealed firearms. But at least 43 schools have permitted staff members to carry or have access to firearms, according to survey results compiled by the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Ohio Facilities Construction Commission in a February 2019 report.

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SB317 marks the second time since the Dayton mass shooting that lawmakers have shown a willingness to advance legislation that loosens gun restrictions, rather than tighten them.

The Ohio House voted 58-32 last month for a bill that would remove the penalty for CCW permitholders who fail to inform police during traffic stops that they have a firearm in the vehicle.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 221, a package of gun reforms backed by Gov. Mike DeWine in the wake of the Dayton shooting, has not received a hearing since December.

“Senate Bill 317 is the exact opposite of the ‘Do Something’ battle cry that Gov. DeWine was met with after the Dayton shooting,” said state Sen. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, who is ranking member of the Senate Government Oversight Committee. “No child in Ohio should have to worry about if there is a gun at school or if the person with the gun has had proper training.”

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