BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio — There is a renewed push to have teachers trained and armed with guns in schools. So in Ohio teachers are lining up for concealed carry permits. And there is at least one sheriff who likes it.
Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones is an advocate of this plan. In the spirit of public safety, he has offered to cover the cost for teachers to take a concealed carry class in Butler County, which is north of Cincinnati. After receiving 300 requests, Jones said the limit had been reached, reported NBC4I.
“You need back up, you need people in the schools,” Jones said in a CNN interview. “Officers aren’t always the answer. You need somebody without a weapon, that can keep their weapon secured, trained.”
Although the plan is aimed at arming teachers, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to bring guns into their classrooms once they complete the training.
Under Ohio’s concealed carry law, school employees must leave their firearms in their locked car when they are in a school safety zone, unless they have written permission from the school district.
So that begs the question, will the district authorize exemptions?
After last week’s shooting in Parkland, Fla., calls to arm teachers and school personnel have intensified. Both President Trump and the National Rifle Association argued this week that enabling school officials to shoot back could save lives and deter potential homicidal individuals from mass murder.
Moreover, Trump has clarified that he believes only those “adept” at using firearms should be armed, not all teachers.
Teachers are already carrying concealed guns in a handful of states, including Ohio. Officials who support concealed carry for teachers say they’re not just handing out weapons but also carefully considering who and how they should carry. Ohio has invested thousands in training, according to NPR.
In Ohio, any school board can give permission to carry a firearm into normally gun-free schools. Those decisions are often made behind closed doors because they’re part of a district’s confidential safety plan.
The Buckeye Firearms Foundation’s Jim Irvine says it’s not just teachers with guns, it’s principals, nurses, and maintenance people. And he says, it’s strictly voluntary.
“No one should ever be forced to carry a gun,” Irvine says. “It’s something you have got to want to do because if you don’t want to do it, you’re not going to embrace it with the right mindset and the right attitude to do it properly.”
Keith Countryman, superintendent of Hicksville Schools in northwest Ohio, carries a concealed gun.
“The people I’ve chosen to carry,” he says, “I’ve instructed them . . . to never have the gun off their body for any reason nor have it shown for any reason unless it’s needed in a threatening situation.”
Following the shooting in Parkland, Fla., Countryman met with his security team to consider arming more teachers who he says are not paid extra. They decided instead to consider other measures like adding more cameras outside the building.
“I’m not gonna just go around and just hand guns out. ‘Hey, go get your concealed carry and you can carry a gun here at school.’ That’s never gonna happen at our school.”
Outside Countryman’s school in Defiance County is a warning sign that reads, “these individuals may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students and staff.” The superintendent says he’s confident if something happened anywhere in the building, they’d be able to confront the intruder within seconds.
At one training session to teach best practices in the small town of Rittman, Ohio, more than a dozen teachers stood in a line poised with guns in hand, according to NPR.
They were there as part of the FASTER program funded by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation. The state is also kicking in $175,000 dollars over the next two years.
For the past five years, FASTER has trained more than 1,300 teachers and staff across 12 states. Chris Cerino is a former police officer and law enforcement trainer who prepares teachers and staff in case of an active shooter.
“We teach them about target and backstop,” Cerino says, “We give them good marksmanship skills. We talk to them about closing the distances and using cover. And we also talk to them about not shooting when they shouldn’t or can’t.”
The Department of Homeland Security advises people “Run. Hide. Fight.” when there’s an active shooter. It’s a method police departments use when training school employees, students, and increasingly, aspiring teachers.
Yet when it comes to the education field, the will to fight is found in smaller numbers. However, that number appears to be growing in the wake of mass murder on school campuses.