When State Representative Thomas Hall introduced Ohio House Bill 99, he made it quite clear what the purpose was – to arm teachers:
My bill is quite simple. Educators should have the ability to carry firearms in the classroom to protect students and staff. In my bill, we simply give local control to allow for the local school boards and local governing bodies to decide what amount of training is necessary to allow teachers to carry a firearm in a school safety zone.
Over the course of six hearings at the Ohio House, testimony was heard by the House Criminal Justice Committee. During that time, 17 individuals presented testimony in support of the bill, including Rep. Hall, while 216 individuals offered opposition testimony, including representatives speaking on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Federation of Teachers, and League of Women Voters. Despite this overwhelming opposition, House Republicans passed the bill.
Scott DiMauro, President of the Ohio Education Association, representing approximately 120,000 members, summed up a major flaw with this legislation:
OEA remains concerned and opposed to the training hour requirements in the bill. Substitute House Bill 99 would prescribe state training requirements at a maximum of 20 hours of initial training and 4 additional hours to be completed annually. For comparison, in the state of Ohio you need 200 hours to be a licensed nail technician. OEA believes this level of firearms training remains inadequate and will ultimately jeopardize the safety of students and staff.
Of the states that explicitly allow school personnel to be armed, most require staff to complete a curriculum established by the state’s police officer standards and training commission, and many of these training requirements are substantial. For example, Florida requires 132 total hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training conducted by instructors certified by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. Texas, North Dakota, and South Dakota all require 80 hours.
Even if you believe, as many people do, that we should have armed individuals in schools, this bill tries to enable it to be done on the cheap. Instead of trying to find a shortcut to get guns on the hips of teachers who don’t want them, Ohio legislators should be providing funding options to schools to address the need properly – something this bill blatantly avoids.
Even throughout the testimony of proponents of the bill you can find this familiar refrain:
I wish there was funding to allow us to provide each school building that requested it, an officer. But that is simply not possible. – Troy Johnson, Ohio State Highway Patrol Chief Deputy for the for the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, and Director of Safety & Transportation for the Gallipolis City School District.
And while Representative Hall’s introductory speech had a personal story, I prefer to lean on stories of actual classroom teachers like that of my friend, Britt, who shared her thoughts about this bill when I posted about it on Tuesday, the same day another school shooting happened in Michigan:
Just yesterday we had an unannounced Level 3 lock down…reading group abruptly came to a halt and I hurried to close my window shade, lock my door and put kids out of sight and into the cubbies for protection. My mind raced as I text my teacher friends down the hall if I missed the announcement in the bulletin. For the next five or so minutes I thought what I would have to do to keep these students quiet, calm and most importantly safe if we had an active shooter in our building. I’ve thought about my plan if we were in crisis and honestly I shouldn’t have to give this so much thought and have this much anxiety over it. Do teachers in other countries have to think about this? Do teachers in Canada have high powered wasp spray hidden away in their cabinet as their “just in case” plan?
It’s a common occurrence on the news – today it was Michigan, tomorrow who knows. It doesn’t even get a lot of attention any more, it’s so frequent.
Here’s the thing. Arming teachers isn’t going to do a damn thing but make more of a mess.
We need GUN CONTROL to keep weapons out of the hands of the individuals who are mentally ill or unable to possess a weapon safely. We also need BETTER MENTAL HEALTH CARE for those suffering and need the most help.
You see, that’s what teachers want – to stop the event before it happens, not to be faced with shooting one of “their kids”.
It has already passed out of the House and moved on to the Senate, so contact your state senator and express your opposition to this bill, telling them you do not want legislation that has a sole purpose of arming educators.
Please contact your state senator here: https://www.ohiosenate.gov/senators
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