Elyria Chronicle-Telegram: 24 hours isn’t enough training for armed teachers

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine should have vetoed a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns in schools with minimal training.

The bill passed the General Assembly on a largely party-line vote recently.

The bill allowed teachers to carry weapons after 24 hours of initial training with an additional eight hours of training each year after that. The training would focus on stopping active shooters, de-escalation, emergency first aid and “scenario-based or simulated training exercises.” It also would include “tactical” live-fire training.

Districts could require additional training, which they should if they plan to have armed staff roaming the halls.

State Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, was the lone Republican in the House to vote against it.

Manning, also a former teacher, said recently she wasn’t against arming teachers, particularly in rural southern Ohio, where police response times can be longer. She said she believed there needed to be more training, although she didn’t know how much would be appropriate.

“I don’t know how you get that done in 24 hours,” she said.

She’s right. That’s not nearly enough training to carry a gun into a school, especially considering that Ohio currently requires school staff who want to carry guns to receive either 728 hours of peace officer training or have 20 years of experience in law enforcement.

In a statement after the bill was passed, DeWine explained why he supported slashing the training requirements.

“My 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 and contained significant scenario-based training,” DeWine said.

We wouldn’t call all of that extra training “irrelevant,” even if it doesn’t all focus on schools.

On the other hand, perhaps Ohioans should count themselves lucky that Republicans didn’t eliminate training altogether. That’s what they did with the state’s concealed-carry license law, which for years required eight hours of training and a license to carry a concealed handgun.

Those requirements weren’t particularly onerous, but Republicans nevertheless eliminated them. Starting this week, anyone who’s legally eligible to possess a handgun can walk around with a concealed weapon. No training or license required.

Even fully trained and sworn police officers make mistakes, which is why they undergo such extensive training.

Could an armed teacher stop a school shooter? Certainly, it’s possible, but being armed is no guarantee that a teacher with a gun will be able to stop a bad guy with a gun.

Police responding to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, were carrying weapons, but they stood by for more than an hour after the gunman entered Robb Elementary School. Before he was taken out, 19 children and two teachers were slaughtered.

Having a gun by no means guarantees that a teacher will react appropriately in the event of a shooting. Armed teachers could make mistakes, including firing at the wrong target, hitting bystanders or even doing nothing.

Then there’s the possibility that officers responding to a school shooting could mistake an armed teacher for the attacker.

There are other reasons to worry about inadequately trained teachers packing heat. Some could pull their weapons at inappropriate times. A gun could accidentally discharge. Teachers could be disarmed and their own weapons turned against them or the students they’re supposed to protect.

There are better ways to deal with gun violence. DeWine, for instance, put forward a package of gun-reform measures, including so-called “red-flag laws” and expanded background checks, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Dayton in 2019. It, too, didn’t go far enough, but Republicans in Columbus haven’t bothered to act on it.

To be fair, arming teachers isn’t the only thing that Ohio lawmakers have done in the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting. They included $100 million for school safety in the state’s capital budget. The money will be doled out in the form of grants to “harden” schools.

That’s all well and good, but it’s not enough.

Neither is putting guns in the hands of undertrained teachers.