Why Ohio lawmakers want less gun training for teachers

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – School districts could set their own training requirements for armed employees under Republican law resulting from a court battle over a district’s reaction to a school shooting.

Legislation pending in the GOP-controlled House Criminal Justice Committee would set a minimum of 20 hours of training in addition to what is needed to obtain a concealed weapons license, but would allow districts to opt for more.

The bill seeks to overturn a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that interpreted current Ohio law as requiring that armed teachers need the same training as the police, which represents hundreds of hours. This would put the practice beyond the reach of almost any district due to time and expense.


At least 10 other states have laws allowing school personnel to be armed, including Texas, which expanded the practice in 2019 after a 2018 school shooting, and Florida, which also allowed districts to add more of armed employees in 2019 after the Parkland massacre a year earlier. .

WHAT DRIVEN THE DEBATE IN OHIO?

In February 2016, a 14-year-old boy opened fire on classmates in a school cafeteria in southwest Ohio. The teenager pleaded guilty later that year to four counts of attempted murder and one count of instigating panic. A judge has ordered him to be kept in juvenile detention until he is 21, when he will be free if he doesn’t get into trouble.

Two years later, the local Madison School District Board of Directors voted to allow teachers and staff with 24 hours of unique concealed gun training to carry firearms. A group of parents then sued the district to prevent teachers from being armed without extensive training, equivalent to what a police officer undergoes.

WHAT DID THE COURTS SAY?

A Butler County judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying school staff did not need such training because they are not law enforcement officers.

The parents appealed to the 12th District Court of Appeals, which ruled that current Ohio law requires anyone who carries firearms in schools to have completed at least 728 hours of training under the law, like the certified Ohio police officers.

The district appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which sided with the parents in June in a split decision.

Nothing in current Ohio law allows districts to bypass the law-making requirement, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote on behalf of the majority of the four judges. Weapons training legislation was introduced by Representative Thomas Hall, a Republican whose district includes local schools in Madison, in response to various court rulings.

WHAT DOES LEGISLATION DO?

Under the bill, armed school employees would be required to complete the eight hours of training required for a concealed weapons license under Ohio law, then complete an additional 18 hours of “general” training and two hours. handgun training course. General training is defined only as instruction making an individual “qualified to serve as a person authorized to surrender armed in a school security zone”.

The current version of the bill sets out specific firearms training goals that a potential armed employee must achieve, including “stepping to the side while shooting and firing two bullets in the preferred area of ​​the torso, then one. bullet in the circle of the head ”.

WHO SUPPORTS THE BILL?

Almost all of the testimony submitted and in person opposes the measure. But the legislation has the backing of gun control groups such as the Buckeye Firearms Association, as well as a handful of local law enforcement agencies and school districts.

One of them is Edgerton Local Schools in rural Williams County, northwest Ohio, which in 2010 allowed a history teacher to arm himself. The district of 600 students then formed a small group of armed volunteers following the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 and the interruption of a school shooting plot in Edgerton in 2013 that included a plan to shoot d ‘first on the only armed teacher in the school.

Edgerton’s armed personnel completed nearly 60 hours of training and were to receive an additional eight hours of annual training, both well above what proposed legislation would require. The Supreme Court ruling ended the program and the district is now back to an armed teacher who is also a certified police officer.

Local school boards should be able to establish levels of training that meet their needs, said Edgerton Superintendent Kermit Riehle, a supporter of the bill. For Edgerton, having armed employees is a priority, especially in a rural setting where a school shooting would likely be over before police can arrive, he said.

“It’s the best case scenario for us to protect our children if and when this happens – we pray that it never happens,” Riehle said.

WHO OPPOSES THE MEASURE?

Several gun control groups, including Moms Demand Action, oppose the legislation, saying the money is better spent on intervention programs for troubled youth and preventing students from accessing guns in the first place.

Many law enforcement organizations are also opposing the bill, including the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, saying the training is inadequate and could create dangerous situations involving under-trained employees making split-second decisions when ‘they face armed individuals.

Veteran Columbus Police Officer Bob Meader told the House Justice Committee that he responded to a non-urgent call in 1995 regarding a stolen license plate, only to come face to face with a young man holding a gun. Meader was ready to fire when the teenager obeyed orders to drop the gun.

“Do you want a school official with this limited training to make the same decision at the same time?” Said Meader, a police commander who said he was testifying on his behalf and not on behalf of the agency. Meader said he advocates letting the state’s police training commission be responsible for setting rules for armed school employees.

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