COLUMBUS, Ohio — During an hour-long news conference to announce the signing of House Bill 99, Gov. Mike DeWine faced a number of questions about the bill that would allow local school districts to arm teachers and dramatically reduce the number of training hours required for them to carry a firearm.
The law would reduce the number of training hours required down from 700 to 24 with additional training annually.
DeWine said that debate and discussion about the bill preceded the most recent deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas – where last month a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers before being killed by law enforcement. The failure of officers to immediately engage with the suspect led to criticism of law enforcement and in part prompted the Justice Department to say it would investigate.
The passage of HB 99 by the Ohio legislature followed recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde.
DeWine re-iterated several times the bill had been debated and discussed before those events. The legislation gives school districts “the option” to arm staff but does not require that they do so.
“First of all schools and not required to do it; teachers are not required to do it. We have had requests from schools to allow this to be done,” Gov. DeWine said.
The state’s largest school district, Columbus City Schools, opposed the bill and said it would not change its policy and would still prohibit students, teachers or members of the public from having firearms on school property.
“Arming educators is not a solution to gun violence. Solving the problem of gun violence requires a community solution,” CCS said in a statement.
The teacher’s union, the Ohio Educational Association, which provided a release Monday said its members were opposed adding that they "do not want to be in the dual role of educating students and serving as armed security guards."
Rick Lewis with the Ohio School Boards Association said they didn’t have an official position, but that the school boards were split - with generally more urban school districts in major metropolitan cities opposed to the measure and some school districts in more rural settings embracing the plan to potentially arm teachers. He did not have a breakdown that detailed which were in support and which were opposed.
Five local school districts provided testimony in support of HB 99. You can read more about their positions below:
DeWine was asked about what if another tragedy occurred where an armed teacher might accidentally shoot another student instead of a would-be shooter.
DeWine responded: “In life we make choices. We don’t always know what the outcome is going to be. What this legislature has done – (what) I’ve done by signing it – is giving schools an option based on their particular circumstances to make the best decision they can make with the best information they have. That’s all any decision-maker can do.
The bill signing by DeWine happened as another law takes effect reducing the restrictions of concealed carry here in Ohio. The new law allows for permitless carry for those over the age of 21, but there are still restrictions on where you can carry a firearm.
10 Investigates asked DeWine to weigh in on news from Sunday that a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators announced a comprehensive legislative package that adds further restrictions on who has access to firearms; incentivizes states to pass so-called “red flags” that could remove firearms for those deemed to be a threat, and adds additional monies towards expanding access to mental health help.
“First of all I don't want to quarrel with you, but we don't - first of all - we don't have a bill from them yet. We have a general idea. It doesn't look like it's gun control, there is a great deal of emphasis put on mental health - the things that they have outlined if you are asking what my reaction is to it, we are always open to help in these areas. These are areas that we are already working on. And have been moving on, particularly in the area of mental health. They want to send additional money in here for mental health that's fine,” DeWine said.