In wake of Uvalde, Ohio Republicans pass bill to make it easier to carry guns into schools

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The Ohio Legislature has passed a bill that would cut the required firearms training time for teachers who want to carry guns on school grounds.

Republicans in the Ohio Legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that dramatically reduces the number of firearms training hours teachers and other staff in the state must complete in order to carry weapons in school. Teachers unions in the state oppose the bill.

The bill, now headed to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's desk for signing, slashes the number of required training hours for teachers, custodians, and bus drivers from 728 to just 24.

The vote came in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunned down 19 children and two teachers using a legally obtained AR-15-style rifle.

The shooting has resulted in more calls for gun reforms, including stricter background checks for purchasers and limits on semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 that have been more and more frequently used in mass shootings in recent years.

The presidents of the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the Ohio Education Association issued a joint statement Wednesday night urging DeWine to veto the bill:

The safety of Ohio's students and educators is our utmost priority, but we know putting more guns into school buildings in the hands of people who have woefully inadequate training—regardless of their intentions—is dangerous and irresponsible. Teachers and other school employees should not be asked to serve dual roles as educators and school safety personnel armed with weapons, but, if they are, rigorous training standards, as set under current Ohio law, are essential. House Bill 99 guts those requirements, capping the state training requirements at 24 hours and putting educators in the impossible position of making split-second life-and-death decisions without sufficient training. This could undoubtedly lead to more tragedies in our schools.

"We aren't trusted with the books we choose, but somehow we're supposed to be trusted with a gun in school?" Shari Obrenski, vice president of the OFT, said Tuesday during debate of the legislation.

Jamie Castle, an Ohio teacher and former Democratic congressional candidate, said arming teachers will make schools less safe.

"The Ohio Senate voted 23-9 to pass HB 99 that allows school staff to carry guns with limited training. If this passes, the consequence will be more dead students," Castle tweeted after the vote. "Students can wrangle these guns and teachers/staff could shoot kids for perceived threat (think cop situations)."

GOP state Sen. Terry Johnson, however, said that this bill "does something" in the wake of the shooting to protect children.

Republican state Sen. Niraj Antani accused Democrats of faking outrage over school shootings, accusing them of "crying crocodile tears" rather than supporting gun bills like the one Ohio Republicans passed.

Other GOP-controlled states are also considering arming teachers in the wake of the Uvalde shooting — over the objections of educators.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Texas is mulling how to "harden" schools.

"Having potentially teachers and other administrators who have gone through training and who are armed because first responders typically can't get there in time to prevent a shooting, it's just not possible unless you have a police officer on every campus which for a lot of these schools is almost impossible," Paxton said in an appearance the day of the shooting on the right-wing cable channel Newsmax.

Teachers in Texas marched to the steps of the Texas Capitol in Austin to voice opposition to arming school officials.

"Educators are here to teach, not to police," Zeph Capo, the Texas chapter president of the American Federation of Teachers, said at the march, according to the Houston Chronicle.

In Wisconsin, Republican State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said that he's open to arming teachers as well.

"It's not just teachers. It's making sure that people who are inside of school have the ability to defend themselves," Vos told the Associated Press, adding that he doesn't think that will stop all school shootings.

"The idea that we are going to take a heinous act like this and find some kind of logical way to prevent it 100% of the time, I just don't see that occurring," Vos said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.