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In the wake of Uvalde, Ohio will arm more teachers

School staff can already carry weapons. The state will ease training requirements and other restrictions.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) had said last week that he planned to sign a bill that makes it easier for teachers to be armed at school. (Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP)

As Congress wrestles over gun control, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed into law a bill Monday that would arm more schoolteachers by reducing training requirements for staffers to carry guns on campus.

The move comes in the wake of a shooting in Uvalde, Tex., where a teenager opened fire on a pair of classrooms, killing 19 fourth-graders and two teachers. DeWine said in a Monday news conference that while House Bill 99 was in the works last year, “That heartbreaking school shooting certainly increased the urgency to enact it.”

Ohio already permits schoolteachers to be armed, but they need the permission of their school board and 700 hours of training as a peace officer. In the news conference Monday, DeWine said school staff who want to carry weapons will be required to have at least 24 hours of training.

“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,” DeWine said in a news release earlier this month.

Republicans, reluctant to pass gun regulations, push arming teachers

Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union, called the effort to arm teachers “ironic,” as it comes after state lawmakers sought to ban how teachers talked about race in classrooms.

“Educators are being told we are not trusted to decide what to teach in the classroom, a job we study for and are licensed to do,” she said in testimony to state lawmakers last month. “But we are trusted to have loaded guns around children with far less training than is required to drive a car.”

Firearms are generally banned on school campuses, except when they are carried by law enforcement or security guards. But several states also exempt school employees from those prohibitions, requiring varying levels of approval and training, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Texas, for example, school boards can sign off on any school staff member with a concealed carry license to be armed on campus. It also has a separate school marshals program that trains school personnel who want to be armed on campus on how to react to school shootings.

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Proposals to arm schoolteachers have proved unpopular with teachers and their unions, which say that it is dangerous and unfair to expect teachers to battle active shooters. In Ohio, the Fraternal Order of Police also opposes the bill.

The Fraternal Order of Police’s government affairs director, Mike Weinman, weighed in on an earlier version of the bill last year, saying, “It’s not enough training.”

“We go through hundreds of hours of training and a lot of that is on how not to use our weapons,” Weinman said, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The practice of arming teachers is far from widespread, but many major school shootings have inspired more districts and states to adopt it. In the aftermath of the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Fla., President Donald Trump called for arming 20 percent of teachers.

“A teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer be a gun-free zone,” Trump said. He suggested that an armed teacher on campus could reach a school shooter faster than responding police officers. “You’d have a lot of people that would be armed, that’d be ready.”

While several schools expanded the number of educators it armed, Trump’s proposal — to arm more than 600,000 teachers — never came to pass.

Florida passed a law that year permitting educators to be armed, naming the program after a teacher slain at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. A school shooting in Texas that occurred just a few months after Parkland inspired the state, which already permitted certain school staff to be armed, to create a school marshal program to train armed staff to respond to school shootings.