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Ohio Gov. DeWine signs a bill arming teachers after 24 hours of training

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, seen here at a news conference earlier this month, says the move to make it easier for teachers to carry guns will give school districts more options.
David Richard
/
AP
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, seen here at a news conference earlier this month, says the move to make it easier for teachers to carry guns will give school districts more options.

Updated June 14, 2022 at 10:22 AM ET

Editor's note: This story was updated after the governor signed the bill.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill on Monday allowing teachers to carry guns in class after 24 hours of training, over opposition from teachers and a police group. Backers say the policy will make schools safer, but critics say that's not the case, citing experts' analysis.

The new law dramatically reduces the amount of training a teacher must undergo before they can carry a gun in a school safety zone. Instead of more than 700 hours of training that's currently required, school staff who want to be armed would get training that "shall not exceed" 24 hours, House Bill 99 states.

"DeWine, who had campaigned for gun restrictions after the mass shooting in Dayton in 2019, said signing this bill is part of an overall plan to harden school security," according to the Statehouse News Bureau.

A contested approach gets Ohio's legal backing

The legislation is similar to a controversial policy adopted by a school district in Madison Township, Ohio, in 2018 to make it easier for staff to carry guns. A group of local parents sued, saying teachers should have peace officer training before they can bring a gun to work.

The Ohio Supreme Court sided with the parents last summer. But now the 24-hour requirement is becoming state law.

The new law's backers include state Sen. Frank Hoagland, who calls it "a common-sense, proactive step in securing our schools from the threat of an active shooter."

Of the few people who testified in favor of the bill in the last hearing on the legislation, one was the CEO of S.T.A.R.T, a company Hoagland founded to advise schools and other entities on security and crisis preparation, as the Ohio Capital Journal notes.

In more than a year of debate on the legislation, witnesses spoke to oppose it more than 360 times, while around 20 people spoke in favor.

DeWine says the law will give schools an option

Both the Ohio Federation of Teachers and Ohio Education Association had urged DeWine to veto the bill, saying it is "dangerous and irresponsible" to put more guns in schools in the hands of people who aren't adequately trained.

"House Bill 99 will make Ohio's students less safe in their schools," the organizations said in a joint statement.

Its opponents also include Moms Demand Action and the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.

The FOP's Mike Weinman testified relaxing Ohio's regulations would create a jumble of school district requirements and result in inadequately trained teachers who will then confront a confusion of roles.

When armed, a teacher's first responsibility is to act as a first responder, Weinman said: "She will be required to abandon her students and respond to whatever threat may be in the building at a moment's notice."

But the governor had previously signaled his support for the bill, and he confirmed it in an interview on Sunday with local TV station WFMJ.

"No school has to do this. This is up to a local school board," DeWine said, adding that some schools might have security officers or other plans to deter or counter an active shooter scenario.

"The best thing is to have a police officer in the schools," he said. "They can be plain clothes, but some schools may not be able to do that."

Studies and experts say it's not a good idea to arm teachers

One longtime researcher of school shootings recently told NPR that he has found that arming teachers isn't a good strategy "because it invites numerous disasters and problems, and the chances of it actually helping are so minuscule."

In 2020, an analysis by RAND concluded that there were "no qualifying studies" on whether arming staff in K–12 schools causes or prevents a range of negative outcomes, including deaths or injuries from accidental shootings to suicides, crime and mass shootings.

But the RAND analysis also said that in the decades since two federal laws on gun-free schools were adopted in the early 1990s, it's become much less likely that a student will carry a weapon, be it a gun or a knife.

"In 1993, 12 percent of students reported carrying a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days," RAND stated, adding, "in 2017, only 4 percent of students reported bringing a weapon to school."

The analysis also noted that despite the terrible tragedy of school shootings, "most students killed with firearms are shot in their own homes, typically because of a domestic dispute, accidental or negligent discharge of a gun, or suicide."

States' laws on guns in schools differ vastly

At least three U.S. states — Alabama, Oregon and Utah — let anyone with a concealed-carry permit bring a gun into a K–12 school, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It's part of a patchwork of policies about guns on campus, with varying levels of training and licensing requirements. All but a handful of states allow law enforcement to bring guns onto school grounds. But from there, the laws diverge.

In at least 18 states, school authorities can allow anyone they choose to carry a gun on campus in some cases, according to the NCSL.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.