COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) — Three weeks after a gunman killed 19 kids and two teachers at a Texas elementary school, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill on Monday making it easier for teachers to carry guns in schools.
House Bill 99 gives local school boards the authority to decide whether teachers and school staff in their buildings are allowed to carry guns. The newly signed law requires up to 24 hours of training before staff can carry firearms, but schools boards can require more.
"Each school board will determine what is best for their students, staff and their community," DeWine said upon signing the bill. "This is a local choice, not mandated by the legislature nor by the government."
Prior to the signing of this law, teachers were required to complete 700 hours of training, making it very difficult to get approval to carry firearms in schools.
The new law goes into effect 90 days after signing, which falls on Sept. 11.
The bill, backed by the Republican majority, passed the Ohio House of Representatives last fall. After the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that left 19 elementary students and two teachers dead last month, the Ohio Senate, also controlled by Republicans, passed the bill in early June and sent it to DeWine.
Opposition to the legislation comes from teachers' unions, the Fraternal Order of Police and anti-gun activists. The groups argue that inadequately trained teachers and staff are more likely to harm students than to help in an active shooter event.
On the other side, Republican legislators, along with the gun lobby and a few school districts, claim that the law gives rural school districts without resource officers a chance against an active shooter.
State Representative Thomas Hall, a Republican from Madison Township, sponsored the bill in the House.
"After the horrific even that transpired in Uvalde, Texas, constituents and even many lawmakers were advocating for, and I quote, to 'do something.' I'm proud to be a part of this moment of, in fact, doing something that will, without a doubt, protect students and staff," Hall said.
Although there has been some confusion as to the exact amount of training required in the law, it says teachers and school staff must complete the 20 hours of training required for private security guards to carry a gun. DeWine said oversight will fall on a branch of the Department of Public Safety, which will require 24 hours of training for any approved training curriculum. DeWine also explained that, as long as the curriculum is approved, the training can be longer than 24 hours.
DeWine told reporters on Monday that his "preference" would be that guns stay with school resource officers, but explained that "what this legislature has done, and I've done by signing, is giving schools an option based on their particular circumstances with the best decision they can make with the best information they have."
The law does not specify how teachers must store their guns in their schools. It does require the school board to release information to the public that its employee, or employees, are armed, but it does not require the boards to release the names of those employees.
James Price, professor emeritus of public health at the University of Toledo, studies school shootings. In an article for the journal Violence and Gender, Price wrote "there are no national studies indicating support from school personnel or other stakeholders regarding the issue [of arming school staff]. Teachers are dedicated public servants who perceive their jobs as educating, nurturing and protecting the well being of youths in their classes. Armed teachers confronted with a current or former student with a firearm may pose unique challenges," such as shooting someone they cared for.
Price went on to explain that arming teachers to stop school shootings has no basis in fact. There were armed guards at both Columbine and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the two most deadly high school shootings. Another concern is that an armed person in the school when a shooting occurs could be mistaken for the shooter. Price said studies have shown that "well trained police officers shot the subjects they were aiming for less than 35% of the time," and the possibility of school staff accidently hitting a bystander or student during an event is problematic.
The new legislation also appropriates $117 million in grants for schools to upgrade their security.
HB 99 is the latest development in Ohio's deregulation of firearms. The day the bill was signed, the state's permitless concealed carry law went into effect, allowing anyone 21 and over who is legally allowed to own a gun to carry it concealed without a permit. Last year, DeWine signed Ohio's stand-your-ground law, making it legal for someone to respond to a perceived attack with deadly force without first attempting to retreat.
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