COLUMBUS, Ohio — School districts in Ohio could begin arming employees as early as this fall under a bill signed into law Monday by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.
The law, as enacted, requires up to 24 hours of training before an employee can be armed, and up to eight hours of annual training. Training programs must be approved by the Ohio School Safety Center, and DeWine said he was directing the center to require the 24-hour maximum and the eight-hour maximum.
Schools can provide additional training if they wish, DeWine said.
Before announcing the signing of the bill, the governor outlined several other school safety measures he and lawmakers have promoted, including $100 million for school safety improvements in schools and $5 million for college improvements.
The state is also adding 28 employees to the School Safety Center to work with districts on safety issues and to provide training under the new law. Ohio also provided $1.2 billion in wellness funding to schools to address mental health and other issues, the governor said.
The new law “gives schools the opportunity, based on their unique circumstances, to make the best decision possible with the best information available to them,” DeWine said.
The governor said his preference remains for school districts to hire armed school resource officers, but said the law is another tool for districts that want to protect children. He pointed out that it was optional and not mandatory.
Several major Ohio city mayors — all Democrats — gathered Monday afternoon to criticize the measure and the failure of Republican lawmakers to consider any gun control proposals. Mayors are calling for universal background checks, red flag laws to remove guns from anyone perceived as a threat, an increase in the legal age to buy guns to 21, and a ban on assault rifles like those used in the school in Uvalde, Texas. shooting that killed 19 elementary students and two teachers.
“All of these things are common sense,” Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said. “We are in a situation where we cannot pass legislation that 95% of our citizens support.”
Also on Monday, former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley, DeWine’s Democratic gubernatorial opponent, criticized DeWine for signing the school’s armed employees bill, saying he had no failed to deliver on its promise to address gun violence after a mass shooting in Dayton killed nine and injured. more than two dozen as of August 2019.
Whaley also criticized DeWine for previously signing bills that eliminated the requirement for Ohioans to step down before using force — the so-called “Hang On” bill — and made optional a Concealed weapons permit for persons legally authorized to carry a weapon. The concealed weapons change went into effect on Monday.
“Politics got tough and Mike DeWine folded,” Whaley said. “Nine people in Dayton were worth the political risk.”
In the aftermath of the Dayton Massacre, DeWine announced his “STRONG Ohio” plan to address gun violence. His proposals include tougher sentences for violent criminals caught with guns and ensure people with mental illness do not have guns if a court deems them dangerous to themselves and others.
Crackdown on violent criminals is also a way to protect children, the governor said. “We see a lot of kids being killed not in school, but in their own homes, on their own streets,” DeWine said. “And they’re killed by violent offenders, and they’re usually violent repeat offenders, who shoot randomly, or shoot someone and the kid gets in the way.”
Last year, 120 children died from gunshot wounds, compared to 96 in 2020 and 71 in 2019, according to state health department data.
On Monday, DeWine again called on fellow Republican lawmakers to endorse the measures, though they have so far shown no interest in the bills.
Democrats said the law sent the wrong message so soon after the Uvalde massacre. Republicans say the measure could prevent such shootings. Lawmakers have fast-tracked the legislation to counter the impact of a court ruling that under current law armed school workers would need hundreds of hours of training.
The measure is opposed by major law enforcement groups, gun control advocates and state teachers’ unions. It is supported by a handful of police departments and school districts.
Gillispie reported from Cleveland.