by J.D. Davidson
An Ohio lawmaker, whose father served a school resource officer who chased an active shooter from a building, wants to make it easier for school districts to arm its employees.
Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Township, introduced legislation that requires school employees to complete only concealed carry weapon training to be able to carry on gun on campus. School employees currently must complete more than 750 hours of peace officer training.
Conceal carry training is six hours of classroom instruction and two hours of on-range training.
“School safety is an issue I care deeply about because my family experienced a school shooting firsthand,” Hall said.
Hall’s father served as Madison High School’s only armed school resource officer in 2016 when he chased a shooter who was firing at students out of a school building. The shooter later was arrested.
In its third hearing before the House Criminal Justice Committee, House Bill 99 received significant pushback from police and teachers’ groups, along with student organizations and parent groups. More than 130 groups or individuals lined up Thursday to present or submit opponent testimony.
“We all agree on the goal – we want to keep kids safe at school,” said Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, ranking member on the Criminal Justice Committee. “But this bill doesn’t even require school staff to have ever hit the target during target practice before they’re given a thumbs-up to use deadly force in a classroom full of kids.”
Many of those wanting to testify Thursday were turned away because of time.
“Due to the time constraints with today’s Criminal Justice meeting, several witnesses were unable to testify on House Bill 99. Unfortunately, the length of committee meetings are limited. It would not have been fair to witnesses for us to recess for an undetermined length of time for today’s House session,” Rep. Jeff LaRe, R-Violet Township, said. “The House Criminal Justice Committee will continue to have hearings on this legislation because it is important for us to hear from community members and interested parties who want to have their opinion heard.”
The 12th District Court of Appeals ruled in March 2020 it was illegal for school districts to arm school staff unless staff had completed a basic peace officer training course or had 20 years of active service as a peace officer, according to Leland.
In Hall’s bill, districts would have the flexibility to require other training requirements for employees.
“This revised version is the result of many collaborative conversations about school safety,” Hall said. “Each school district knows how to best protect their students, and this bill promotes local control in doing so.”
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.