In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, many blue states such as New York are rushing to try to pass new gun control laws. Ohio, however, is going in a different direction. Legislators there fast-tracked a bill this week that would allow trained, armed employees in schools beginning as soon as this fall. Governor Mike DeWine has already indicated his support for the bill and he plans to sign it into law soon. Democrats are objecting, of course, saying that it “sends the wrong message” after recent mass shootings. But nothing in the legislation makes the presence of armed employees on campus mandatory. The bill will only allow the option for interested school districts and ensure that those who participate have the proper level of training and skills to do so safely.
Ohio school districts could begin arming employees as soon as this fall under legislation approved by Republican lawmakers and set to be signed by GOP Gov. Mike DeWine.
Democrats said the proposal, which is optional for schools, 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. Lawmakers fast-tracked the legislation to counter the impact of a court ruling that said, under current law, armed school workers would need hundreds of hours of training.
The bill will protect children by ensuring instruction is specific to schools and including significant scenario-based training, DeWine said late Wednesday in announcing his support.
It appears that Ohio is trying to strike a reasonable balance in the requirements for school staff members interested in participating. Previous proposals included onerous requirements that included literally hundreds of hours of training and significant expense. Participants in Ohio will need to complete 24 hours of initial training followed by annual refresher courses lasting eight hours.
By comparison, the hunter safety training courses in New York last 7 hours along with mandatory home study and homework that must be done in advance of attending the class which may take several hours. Granted, the scope and purpose of those two types of training are very different. Hunter safety training primarily involves making sure that the student doesn’t unintentionally shoot people (or themselves) while in the field and includes other course material covering things such as wildlife management and game identification. School security training will have to prepare participants for the day when they may be called upon to shoot another human being without endangering students or other staff members.
Legislators in Ohio were probably paying attention to the recent polling showing that a strong majority of Americans are in favor of allowing armed teachers in classrooms if that’s what it takes to stop mass shooters in their tracks. As sad as it may be to say, the Uvalde School District Police Department probably did more to sway public opinion on this issue than anything else. Most districts can’t afford to have armed law enforcement officers at every school on every day when classes are in session. And even if your district’s police officers are vastly more competent than those in Uvalde, they simply can’t be everywhere at once.
What’s missing from this initiative in Ohio is any progress in dealing with the country’s spiraling mental health crisis. The problem is not that there are too many guns. We simply have too many crazy people. And the government will never be able to monitor every corner of the internet and the dark web to find them all before they go off the rails. In virtually every mass shooting that’s taken place, there had to have been some family member or friend who recognized that the shooter was dangerously unstable. People are going to have to take some responsibility in these situations and say something. Of course, that type of action has to be balanced against the rights of the individual in question and prevent abuse through false reporting, making “red flag” laws all the more problematic.