June 17, 2022

The Democratic candidate for governor in Ohio was among the critics condemning Gov. Mike DeWine's decision on Monday to sign a bill permitting teachers to carry a gun to class after just 24 hours of firearms training—pointing out that educators will need far more training to renew their teaching licenses than to bring a deadly weapon into their classrooms.

"Teachers will need 180 hours to renew their teaching license so they can teach your kids, but only up to 24 hours of training to carry a gun around with them," Nan Whaley, who was the mayor of Dayton in August 2019 when a mass shooting there killed 10 people and injured 27, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "That is insane."

DeWine, a Republican, signed House Bill 99, which will reduce the amount of training school staffers need to carry a firearm to work from 700 hours—the standard amount needed for law enforcement agents.

The state Supreme Court ruled a year ago that school districts could only allow teachers and other staff to carry guns if they underwent the same training as police officers.

Democratic lawmakers in the state have been joined by teachers' unions as well as the Fraternal Order of Police and local law enforcement officials in opposing House Bill 99, with Akron Deputy Police Chief Brian Harding telling the Plain Dealer, "We've worked for years trying to keep guns out of schools and now we're putting them in schools."

"The expectation now is to have teachers trained to that level, to engage someone that potentially could come into a school and start killing kids and adults," Cleveland Police Chief Wayne Drummond told the newspaper.

Even as he signed the bill, DeWine expressed doubt that school districts should actually allow teachers to carry firearms and said schools should arm security officers or campus police officers instead.

"It's hard to envision a school arming a teacher that has never before held a gun in their hand. That's beyond my comprehension," DeWine said. "So, I'm sure schools will be very mindful of who they designate with this provision."

The governor also signed Senate Bill 215 on Monday, allowing Ohio residents who are 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon without training. Both bills were signed three weeks after a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a massacre that reignited public demand for stricter gun control.

The aftermath of the attack also unleashed a call by several prominent Republicans to arm teachers.

The signing of the Ohio bill, said NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, showed that "a madness has taken hold."

In Washington, bipartisan negotiations last week yielded a package on Sunday that left out several proposals pushed by gun control advocacy groups, including a requirement that people who purchase AR-15-style rifles be 21 or older, universal background checks, safe storage requirements for private ownership, and a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Duke University professor Kieran Healy denounced DeWine's decision to make it easier for school districts to arm teachers as "pure insanity."

Other critics lambasted DeWine for prioritizing weapons in schools over ensuring school districts are properly funded. In April, the governor signed a bill that could result in larger class sizes and the elimination of extracurricular activities, and Ohio teachers spend an average of $444 per school year on supplies for their classrooms, according to a 2019 report by the Economic Policy Institute.

Republished from Common Dreams (Julia Conley, staff writer) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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