In the first hearing before a House committee for a bill authorizing local school districts to create firearms policies for personnel, some committee members made it very clear where they stood on the issue.
“The absolute ignorance and absurdity from people who oppose this amazes me,” said state Rep. J. Todd Smith, R-Farmersville, during the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee on Tuesday. “The callousness that they have, because every one of these people that I talk to want guns in schools.”
The bill would allow each Ohio school district to create their own policies for allowing teachers and school personnel to have firearms when on school property, and what amount of training would be necessary to have those firearms in school.
Bill sponsor, state Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township, argued the bill is mainly about local control for school districts.
“What we’re doing is empowering the local district to decide what works best for them,” Coley told the committee.
The bill has already passed the Ohio Senate, and is in direct response to a case currently being appealed in the Ohio Supreme Court. The court case relates to Butler County’s Madison Local School District, which tried to institute a policy in which teachers and personnel could be armed. Parents sued the school and a Butler County court said the school district could create the firearms policy. On appeal, the 12th District Court of Appeals disagreed, sending the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The state’s high court is set to hear arguments on the case in mid-January. Coley said this bill would “correct the ambiguity” the court said was in current law.
“It’s incumbent upon us to correct what they perceive as an ambiguity,” Coley said.
Smith and committee chair Don Jones, R-Freeport, said they are in support of the bill, and Jones said several people in his district have asked for a bill such as this.
Smith also said arguing about the requirements for carrying a gun in school shouldn’t outweigh the need to protect students from shooters.
“What kind of training? I’ll tell you this, I don’t give a hoot if he’s got none,” Smith said. “If there’s a psycho that comes into that school with a gun, that teacher has a better chance…of protecting the kids in that room with a gun than he does with an eraser or a textbook.”
Democrats on the committee stood on the opposite side of the bill, saying local control is not taken away when the state creates a framework for the firearms policies from district to district, just as they do state testing standards and other regulations.
“My concern would be just that inconsistency as to what the requirement would be in order to carry (a gun) in,” said state Rep. Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati. “Unfortunately, it sounds to me a little like Sarah Palin talking about ‘we need to carry guns in schools ’cause there might be a bear.’”
Jones said there would be several more hearings on the bill, but did not give any indication whether the bill would make it out of committee before the lame duck session has ended.
This story shared for republication by, and with permission from, the Ohio Capital Journal, an independent, nonprofit news organization. For more information go to www.ohiocapitaljournal.com
Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.