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Ohio Is Set to Give Teachers Guns and Reduce Their Gun Training Requirements

In the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting, most Republican lawmakers are either doing nothing or actively making things worse.

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In the aftermath of the devastating Uvalde school shooting, Republican lawmakers have predictably wasted no time in pursuing entirely counterproductive “solutions”: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has signed a bill Monday that would arm teachers with guns and cut the required training hours for armed school personnel from 700 to just four “scenario-based training hours”—in addition to 20 hours of first aid training and lessons on the history of school shootings.

The law, HB99, will allow local school boards to determine whether their teachers and school staff should carry firearms. But considering the amount of batshit fights local school boards have taken on, like “critical race theory” and mask mandates in schools, I have a hunch about which side many will lean towards.

At a news conference after signing the law, DeWine seemed to reduce school shootings—which killed 15 in the Columbine school shooting of 1999, 26 in Sandy Hook in 2012, 17 in Parkland in 2018, and 21 in Uvalde last month—to a coin toss. “In life we make choices, and we don’t always know what the outcome is going to be,” DeWine said. “What this Legislature has done, I’ve done by signing it, is giving schools an option based on their particular circumstances to make the best decision they can make with the best information they have. That’s all any decision-maker can do.”

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Or, of course, we could pass meaningful legislation to actually get mass killing machines out of people’s hands and prevent schools shootings from happening in the first place, so that life-or-death scenarios don’t come down to teachers’ split-second decisions.

HB99 will only place students, teachers and school personnel in greater danger. Arming “good guys” with guns has proven ineffective each time, even when said “good guys” have been trained in handling firearms for years, even decades. Throughout the Uvalde shooting, armed police officers were too afraid of the gunman’s assault rifle to even enter the school as the shooting was taking place. Arming teachers—especially with such little training—would really only increase the risk of fatal accidents.

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It’s worth noting the Ohio state Supreme Court has previously ruled against similar legislation to arm teachers, stating that the Ohio Revised Code required school personnel to have 20 years of experience handling firearms—which is a little more than four hour-long training sessions—or peace officer training to be armed. DeWine seems prepared for the possibility that his new law could be thrown out as well, citing additional steps he’s taken to supposedly make schools safer in the aftermath of Uvalde at Monday’s news conference. He specifically touted $100 million in grants the state is giving to schools to upgrade building security, as well as investments in training to help school staff address behavioral health problems among students.

Investments in more resources for perennially underfunded schools will always be beneficial, especially as police departments swallow up municipal budgets across the country—all while teachers are forced to dip into their own salaries for school supplies, and the average student-to-school-counselor ratio in high schools is 311 to one. But these investments aren’t a solution to gun violence in schools, which relies on access to firearms like assault rifles and high-capacity magazines that can kill dozens in a matter of minutes.

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It’s not just DeWine who’s pursuing legislation that’s either unhelpful or actively harmful. The Uvalde shooting, enabled by truly stunning police failure, has somehow inspired numerous school districts to invest in greater police presence on campus—not unlike efforts we’ve seen after previous school shootings, all of which failed to prevent the next one. The Parkland and Columbine shootings both sparked “anti-bullying” movements that seemed to place the blame on students for not smiling at each other enough, rather than lawmakers and the gun lobby. In particular, increased police and security measures at schools have never achieved anything but the worsening of the racist school-to-prison pipeline, placing Black and brown youth at greater risk of being profiled, punished, and criminalized, just for trying to go to school.

Metal detectors, police officers, and security guards have no place in healthy learning environments—kids shouldn’t have to feel like they’re going to prison to get a safe, quality education, and nor should they have to fear for their lives, just for trying to learn. DeWine and other ghoulish conservative lawmakers can try to pin the blame for school shootings on teachers’ “decision-making,” or school building infrastructure, or cyberbullying, or anything else—but school shootings and all gun violence will always come down to easy access to a firearm.