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Lawmakers approve lower training requirements to carry guns in Ohio schools

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau

Ohio school district employees could once again be allowed to carry guns, under legislation being fast-tracked by Republican lawmakers to counter the impact of a court ruling that restricted the practice.

The Republican-dominated legislature has passed a bill that seeks to lower training requirements for armed personnel in schools from more than 700 hours to 24 hours.

The measure aims to undo the effect of an Ohio Supreme Court ruling last year, which held that under current law, armed school workers would need hundreds of hours of training.

Democrats said the legislation sends the wrong message a week after the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Republicans say the measure could prevent such shootings.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Frank Hoaglund (R-Mingo Junction), who runs a business advising schools on security, who said it helps the state and schools protect kids.

“Ohio is taking ownership and the burden of ensuring a safe place for education," Hoagland said.

Current law states that armed school personnel should have more than 700 hours of training, which was affirmed in an Ohio Supreme Court decision last summer. In that decision, the court ruled with parents who sued the Madison Local School District in Butler County over the 24 hours of training required for armed employees, saying it conflicted with state law.

The district had allowed those employees to carry weapons after a school shooting in 2016. The school resource officer on duty during that shooting was the father of Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown), who sponsored House Bill 99.

The bill, which was changed in the Senate, does mention 24 hours of training, but an analysis from the Legislative Service Commission said that's not the minimum. It states: "Initial instruction and training may not exceed 24 hours and annual requalification training may not exceed 8 hours."

But Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), a former teacher, called the bill crazy, and noted concerns about misplaced weapons and other problems from too little training.

“You don’t want to be back here when there’s a terrible incident and everyone in this room will have blood on your hands," Fedor said.

Republican Senators Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) voted with Democrats against the bill.

Because it had been changed in the Senate, it had to pass the House again, which it did on a mostly party line vote.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine supports the legislation, as long as it requires adequate and annual training for armed employees. DeWine underscored his support last week as he announced plans to spend “a significant amount of money” to help schools create physical barriers against attacks without going into details.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins of the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.