State Representative John Becker just introduced a bill that would eliminate public gun-free zones and allow concealed carry in schools, libraries, and most other government buildings.
House Bill 703, dubbed DEFEND-TWO (Decriminalization Effort for Ending Notorious Deaths - Teachers With Options) by Becker, was introduced in response to mass shootings in schools and other public places, he said.
"Right now, gun-free zones, a sign that says no guns allowed, is an invitation to come on in and shoot the place up, because no one can stop you," said Becker, a Union Township (Clermont County) Republican.
The bill says individuals with a concealed handgun license (CHL) cannot be disciplined for possessing a gun in an unsecured public building. This includes any public building without an official security checkpoint.
It would apply only to schools that do not already have metal detectors, armed security guards, or both. Becker said the goal is to give schools an added security measure without spending any money, by allowing school personnel to carry guns.
Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins previously called on elected officials to make sure school districts have enough money to place local law enforcement officers in schools if necessary.
"That’s a better way to go than arming school employees," Higgins said in a statement released after the Florida school shooting in February.
"We believe that teachers should not be asked to serve a dual role as educators and as school safety personnel armed with weapons...When law enforcement officers respond to a school shooting, they can’t readily determine who is a 'good guy' with a gun and who isn’t," Higgins said.
Becker noted that the bill does not require schools to do anything differently, but could help or encourage a school board to make a decision about arming school staff.
Becker has less support for DEFEND-TWO than he did a few months ago, he said, and some people have backed away due to pushback against armed teachers. Right now, he has nine other Republican co-sponsors for the bill.
"I don't want teachers armed either, I don't want anyone in schools with guns," Becker said. "But you have to face up to (violence in schools), and what are you doing to prevent it?"
Ten other states currently have laws that allow concealed carry in K-12 schools.
Becker previously introduced House Bill 233, or the DEFEND Act, which would decriminalize carrying a concealed handgun in gun-free zones.
Under current Ohio law, violators of gun-free zones could face a fifth-degree felony charge, up to 12 months in jail and a $2500 fine. Under House Bill 233, there would only be a punishment if the violator was caught and also asked to leave. Failure to leave would then result in a misdemeanor charge for disorderly conduct.
The bill passed the House and is now in Senate committee.