Teachers and other school employees in Ohio will be able to carry firearms into school with a tiny fraction of the training that has been required since last year, after Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law on Monday.
While employees have for years been allowed to carry guns on school grounds with the consent of the local school board, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that state law required them to first undergo the same basic peace officer training as law enforcement officials or security officers who carry firearms on campus – entailing more than 700 hours of instruction.
That ruling, Mr. DeWine said on Monday, had made it largely impractical for Ohio school districts to allow staffers to carry firearms.
Under the new law, a maximum of 24 hours of training will be enough for teachers to carry guns at school, although the local board will still need to give its approval. Twenty-eight states allow people other than security personnel to carry firearms on school grounds, with laws in nine of those states explicitly mentioning school employees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Polls in recent years show that a majority of Americans, and a large majority of teachers, oppose the idea of arming teachers.
In a statement upon the bill’s passage, Mr. DeWine said his office “worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety,” and thanked the Legislature “for passing this bill to protect Ohio children and teachers.”
The governor emphasized that local school districts would still have the ability to prohibit firearms on school campuses. “This does not require any school to arm teachers or staff,” he said. “Every school will make its own decision.”
Last week, Justin Bibb, the mayor of Cleveland, said his city would continue to ban teachers and other non-security employees from carrying guns in schools.
Ohio’s new law, which moved suddenly and swiftly through the State Senate after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, passed on June 1 along roughly partisan lines, with two Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against it. The bill passed the House in November, also on a nearly party-line vote; one Republican joined the Democrats in voting against it.
In a speech on the Senate floor, State Senator Niraj Antani, a Republican, dismissed the “crocodile tears” of lawmakers who saw the bill as dangerous, arguing that armed teachers would deter school shootings and calling the bill “probably the most important thing we have done to prevent a school shooter in Ohio. ”
A sizable opposition against the bill had grown against it during its journey through the Legislature. Hundreds packed into committee rooms for the bill’s hearings, with all but two or three speakers testifying against it. The opposition included gun control groups as well as teachers, school board members, police union representatives and police chiefs.
Robert Meader, who recently retired as commander of the Columbus, Ohio, Police Division, called the training requirement in the bill “woefully inadequate,” arguing that it would “cause harmful accidents and potentially even needless deaths.”
The bill is the second major gun bill that Mr. DeWine, a Republican, has signed into law this year. The first, which went into effect on Monday, eliminates the requirement for a license to carry a concealed handgun.
The governor faced intense pressure to address gun violence after a 2019 shooting in Dayton, when nine people were killed and 17 wounded by a young man who opened fire outside a bar. In the days after the shooting, a crowd at a vigil greeted Mr. DeWine with loud chants of “Do Something!” which would become something of a motto for those seeking action on gun violence.
Mr. DeWine initially expressed support for a so-called red flag law, but neither it nor any other restrictions on guns have come up for a vote in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
In 2021, Mr. DeWine signed a “Stand Your Ground” measure, allowing people to use deadly force without first attempting to retreat from a dangerous situation. He signed the bill allowing concealed carry without a permit in March. Republicans argued in the debate before this latest bill that drastically reducing the training required for teachers to carry guns was itself a response to people’s demands for action on gun violence.
“We’ve heard people say ‘Do something,'” State Senator Terry Johnson, a Republican, said on the Senate floor. “Well, this is something and it’s a significant something.”
Democrats, heavily outnumbered in the Legislature, were left only to condemn the bill and warn of its potential consequences.
“They just wanted to say they were doing something and what they’ve gotten away with is unconscionable,” said State Senator Teresa Fedor, a Democrat who served in the Air Force and taught fourth grade for years, said in an interview. “They will have blood on their hands.”