Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018
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Ohio concealed-carry for teachers advances

House OKs bill with bipartisan support

COLUMBUS — School districts that designate teachers and other personnel to carry hidden firearms must undergo pretraining and a psychological assessment after the fact if they use the weapon under a bill that passed the House with bipartisan support Wednesday.

But opponents objected to provisions to take the issue off the collective bargaining table and questioned the wisdom of arming teachers in classrooms.

“[House Bill 8] does not arm employees,” the bill’s chief sponsor, Kristina Roegner (R., Hudson), said. “Current law allows that to happen.”

The bill would add off-duty law officers to those exempted from a ban on carrying a concealed firearm in school safety zones. It would grant school boards and the gun-carrying employee immunity from a civil lawsuit in the event the weapon causes harm, as long as the employee was not negligent. The bill goes to the Senate.

Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), a military vet and former school teacher, tried unsuccessfully to remove the provision exempting the issue from contract talks. She questioned whether it could lead to an armed teacher inadvertently being shot when a law officer responds to a report of an active school shooter. “Who’s going to know who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy?”

The bill responds to school shootings such as that in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 and in Chardon, Ohio, nearly two years ago, raising the question of whether more guns should be in schools for self-protection. Some districts have hired armed guards; others designate people to carry concealed firearms on school property. Others, however, have resisted guns in school. “This is playing Russian roulette with the life of a child,” said Rep. Matt Lundy (D., Elyria). “When the bullets start to fly, there’s no guarantee the bullets will hit the bad guy. Sometimes we tend to think this is the movies, but this, folks, is real life.”

Some Democrats joined Republicans to support the bill, which passed 63-29.

Voting “yes” among area lawmakers: Reps. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township), Tim Brown (R., Bowling Green), Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), Robert Sprague (R., Findlay), Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont), Tony Burkley (R., Payne), Matt Huffman (R., Lima), and Jeff McClain (R., Upper Sandusky).

All four area Democrats opposed it: Reps. Fedor, Michael Ashford (D., Toledo), Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon), and Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island).

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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