Ohio Senate Bill: Armed School Workers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio school district employees may once again be allowed to carry firearms, under fast-track legislation by Republican lawmakers to counter the impact of a court ruling which restricted the practice.

The measure seeks to reverse the effect of an Ohio Supreme Court ruling last year, which ruled that under current law, armed school workers would need hundreds of hours of training .

Democrats said the legislation sends the wrong message a week after the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Republicans say the measure could prevent such shootings.

According to the latest version of the bill, employees of schools carrying weapons would need up to 24 hours of initial training, then up to eight hours of requalification training per year. The bill did not specify an all-encompassing minimum education requirement, leading Democrats to criticize that the legislation is being pushed too quickly without all the specifics.

Training must include how to stop an active shooter, how to defuse a violent situation, trauma and first aid, at least four hours in “scenario-based or simulated training exercises” and complete “tactical firearms training”. real fires. according to the invoice.

The bill is opposed by major law enforcement groups and gun control advocates, and supported by a handful of police departments and school districts. More than two dozen states allow the arming of school employees under certain circumstances.

The GOP-controlled Senate approved the measure Wednesday along mostly partisan lines, a day after it passed in committee.

The debate was long and charged.

Senator Theresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, called the training requirements inadequate and warned that lawmakers supporting the bill “will have blood on their hands” if the legislation leads to an accidental shooting incident in a school. Sen. Niraj Antani, a Dayton-area Republican, accused Democrats of “crying crocodile tears” by continually exaggerating the negative consequences of bills expanding access to guns.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine supports the legislation, as long as it requires proper, annual training for armed employees. DeWine underscored his support last week by announcing plans to spend “a significant amount of money” to help schools create physical barriers against attack without going into specifics.

The Supreme Court’s decision came after local schools in Madison in southwestern Ohio voted to allow teachers and staff who received 24 hours of one-time concealed weapons training to carry sidearms. fire following a 2016 school shooting. After the district adopted the armed curriculum in 2018, a group of parents successfully sued the district to stop teachers from being armed without extensive training, equivalent to what a policeman goes through.

One of those parents, Erin Gabbard, testified against the bill on Tuesday, calling it radical and reckless.

“It doesn’t protect our children, it puts them at risk,” Gabbard said. “Allowing teachers to go armed with our children to school with, at most, 24 hours of training is woefully insufficient. It makes our children less safe.

Opponents of the bill, including educators and gun control advocates, far outnumbered supporters at Tuesday’s hearing. One supporter, Buckeye Firearms Association lobbyist Rob Sexton, said arming teachers would give children a fighting chance in case “the worst happens in our schools”.

He also cautioned against making the training so rigorous that it “become a deterrent so people don’t end up enrolling in the program.” We actually want school districts and people to be prepared to take advantage of this option to protect our children. »

Since the bill requires armed employees to have a concealed weapons permit, that adds eight hours to the training requirement, Sexton said.

The bill is opposed by major law enforcement groups and gun control advocates, and supported by a handful of police departments and school districts.

Norman D. Briggs