As the Ohio Supreme Court considers whether school boards should be allowed to determine firearm policies in their districts, a new bill to do just that entered the Ohio House on Thursday.
Similar to a bill that died in the last General Assembly, House Bill 99 would allow personnel to be armed on school grounds with firearms training determined by the school district. The difference between Hall’s bill and the previous legislation is the creation of a minimum for that training, equivalent to that received to obtain concealed carry (CCW) certification.
That minimum requirement would eliminate the regulation currently in state law that calls for basic training from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) as the minimum training needed to carry a firearm onto school property.
State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., took over the legislation after state Rep. Bill Coley left at the end of the last General Assembly due to term limits.
Hall said the legislation hits close to home for him since a 2016 school shooting left four injured at Madison High School in Butler County, where his father was the school resource officer.
“I will never forget the conversations that ensued days after, and hearing what the administration saw that day in the lunchroom,” Hall told the House Criminal Justice Committee. “What could have been an even more tragic event, was ended by my father being there.”
While his father, as the school resource officer, received the more than 700 hours of training required under OPOTA regulations, Hall said he feels CCW training would be sufficient for non-security personnel in schools.
According to Ohio law, the minimum training hours needed to obtain a CCW license is eight hours, with a minimum of two hours of in-person range and live-fire training.
Because of the other training involved in OPOTA training, such as patrol and traffic training, Hall said it wouldn’t be useful for school personnel to go through it.
“Those are some of the things I don’t believe that our teachers, who are not peace officers by their first job, should have to go through,” Hall said.
Hall said schools will have the ability to make the training requirements what they will under the bill, which could be training over and above even the OPOTA training if they wanted to. For schools that may not be able to afford a school resource officer, having the firearms policy may be their choice for extra protection, Hall said.
“Going back to the basis of the bill, it just provides school districts clarity on what they can do, and with this bill they can have as much or as little training as they deem necessary,” Hall said.
This issue is already in the courts awaiting a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, after gun control lobbies and parents sued Madison Local School District for implementing firearms policies following the shooting at their school.
The state’s highest court heard arguments in the case in January, after an appeals court agreed with parents in the case that school districts should not be allowed to determine training necessary to carry a gun in schools.
Most of the debate centers around whether or not an armed teacher would then be considered to be in a security role merely by having the gun in school as protection. If that were the case, those suing the school district said that would require the higher level OPOTA training.
The court said the school district could continue their policies until the court case is decided.