COLUMBUS, Ohio — Schools in Ohio could soon start seeing more firearms in the hands of their teachers, thanks to a bill passed by Republicans Wednesday.
Sub House Bill 99, would give a school board the option to allow any adult in a school to carry a firearm with an ambiguous amount of training. The bill, although having a maximum of 24 hours of training, doesn't specify a minimum.
This is an opt-in proposal, so schools are not forced to do it.
At least four of the 24 hours have to be training of "scenario-based" or simulated training exercises, but it is unclear if that needs to be with a live weapon. Although it is not specified how much time is needed, there is a requirement to complete "tactical live firearms training."
The new bill also has an annual requalification training, but it can't be more than eight hours. That being said, the bill does not prohibit a school district from requiring additional training — it just can't be mandated by the state.
The bill creates the Ohio School Safety and Crisis Center within the Department of Public Safety to be operated by the Ohio Mobile Training Team, which would develop the curriculum in training.
Although not originally included in the bill or the sub bill, an amendment to the sub bill added that armed individuals must have a criminal background check each year.
Previously, armed teachers would have to become peace officers with more than 700 hours on average of educational courses and firearm training. H.B. 99 would make it significantly easier for adults in schools to carry guns, loosening the regulations by more than 95%.
For context, police get 60 hours of firearm training, with 46 of those hours being at a gun range. School resource officers get the same as police, but an additional 40 hours of training both inside and at the range.
The new version of the bill was proposed during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday, hundreds came to oppose the bill. Throughout the entire hearing process, around 350 people submitted testimony against the bill, while about 19 testified in favor.
During Senate session on Wednesday, the lawmakers chose to push the new version of H.B. 99 forward. This was an emotional debate, with Democratic lawmakers urging the Republicans to not vote for it.
The vote was 23-9, mainly along party lines. Republican state Sens. Matt Dolan, from Chagrin Falls, and Stephanie Kunze, from Hilliard, voted with the Dems.
This then sent the bill back to the house, since the substitute was so different than the original bill they had passed.
More emotional pleas from Democrats, but the bill was once again split mainly along party lines. As of the original vote, 54 voted in favor, 33 voted no and 12 didn't vote.
HB 99 just passed and will be sent to Gov.— Morgan Trau (@MorganTrau) June 1, 2022
Here is a look at the lawmakers who voted for and against:
All Dems voted against, but a few Republicans did, too. pic.twitter.com/gXWguWfbgV
All of the yes votes were from Republicans. The no votes were all Democrats but also include Republican state Reps. Tom Patton, from Strongsville, and Gayle Manning, from North Ridgeville.
The lawmakers who didn't vote either weren't in attendance or had left the room, only to come back after the vote.
"It's infuriating that our lawmakers that we elected, and our taxpayer dollars pay their incomes, that they don't feel they have any accountability to their constituents," Laura Robertson-Boyd with Moms Demand Action, said. "They don't need to listen to anyone, they're just going to do what they want to do."
Moms Demand Action, along with Ohio Education Association (OEA), the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio (FOP) and the Ohio Federation of Teachers are among the groups who testified the bill will make schools significantly less safe.
But Rob Sexton, with the Buckeye Firearm Association, said this bill would do the opposite.
"We've learned over time that the faster that an active killer is engaged, the more lives that are saved, and so whether that's law enforcement that engages quickly or it's someone who's in the school who is willing to volunteer to be armed, to protect our kids, we want to see an active killer confronted immediately," Sexton said.
He was one of the two people to testify in favor Tuesday, and said after the mass shooting in Uvalde, arming teachers could help make people feel less helpless, plus — the bill just gives an option, it's not a mandate.
"This bill gives schools a chance to have those kinds of programs in place and ultimately give us a fighting chance to see our kids better protected," he said. "I think schools have a choice to make those that, you know, those school boards that would rather not see this, they don't have to."
When asked if he knew of any cases where a teacher with a gun stopped a school shooting with their own gun, Sexton said he didn't.
"There is no evidence that shows that arming teachers in schools is going to neutralize the school shooting threat or evidence on gunfire on school grounds," Robertson-Boyd replied.
The bill now heads to the governor's desk, where he will decide if it becomes law, however, he did give a statement. He said that he looks forward to signing it.
"Last week I called on the General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow local school districts, if they so chose, to designate armed staff for school security and safety. My office worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety and to ensure training requirements were specific to a school environment and contained significant scenario-based training. House Bill 99 accomplishes these goals, and I thank the General Assembly for passing this bill to protect Ohio children and teachers. I look forward to signing this important legislation."