Introducer of school gun training bill believes it will ‘protect lives;’ state teacher unions disagree

House Bill 99, passed by the Senate late Wednesday, now waits for Gov. DeWine’s approval, veto.

State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., said after all the public shootings people have demanded politicians “do something” to reduce gun violence instead of talking about the importance of thoughts and prayer.

“We are doing something,” Hall said Thursday at the Republican headquarters in Middletown. “This will protect lives.”

Late Wednesday night, the Senate passed House Bill 99, introduced by Hall more than a year ago, that sets a minimum requirement of 24 hours of initial training, then up to eight hours of requalification training annually for school employees to carry guns in schools.

If signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, the permissive bill would leave it up to individual Ohio school districts whether to arm teachers and how many hours of gun training to require, as long as it’s at least 24.

DeWine said his office worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety and to ensure training requirements were specific to a school environment.

He said House Bill 99 accomplishes those goals and he looks forward to signing this “important legislation.”

But two Ohio school presidents urged DeWine to veto the bill.

Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association (OEA), and Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), released a joint statement in opposition to House Bill 99: “In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Ohio lawmakers are rushing to take action to address school safety concerns in our state.”

They said H.B. 99 will make Ohio’s students “less safe” in their schools.

“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,” the statement read.

Hall, 26, introduced the bill on Feb. 9, 2021 and the last 17 months were a “rollercoaster of emotions” for him, he said.

It passed the House in November but stalled in a Senate committee until the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 elementary school students and two teachers were killed by a single gunman. The bill was approved late Wednesday night by the Senate by a 23-9 vote after it was revised 18 times.

The bill requires that school staff receive at least 24 hours of training, 700 less than police officers are required. Hall said some of the police training like traffic stops is irrelevant in schools.

When asked why 24 hours was selected, Hall said “there is no perfect number,” but it was “a great starting point.”

Hall said a shooting in the Madison School District in February 2016 “changed our community, changed our lives.” His father, Kent Hall, a Butler County Sheriff deputy sheriff, was in the school at the time of the shooting. It took him seven seconds to run from the office to the cafeteria, the site of the shooting.

“Seconds absolutely do matter,” Hall said.

The goal of the bill is to “protect and enhance school safety” and it’s best to have “a good person with a gun to stop a bad person with a gun,” he said, repeating an often used quote.

The bill also creates the Ohio School Safety and Crisis Center within the state Department of Public Safety and appropriates $6 million this fiscal year and another $6 million next year for its operation. Through a Mobile Training Team, the center would offer training for personnel at school districts that approve more armed personnel.

Eventually, Hall would like to see two School Resource Officers in every school in the state.

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