“Layers of protection” is what spurred the Buckeye Firearms Association to offer firearms training to teachers, according to Chairman Jim Irvine.
After the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. the organization began offering the Armed Teacher Training Program. The inaugural class only has 24 openings, but 759 school-related personnel had applied as of Jan. 3 after about 10 days worth of advertising.
Locally, Irvine said, there were a number of teachers, staff and administrators who applied from the 14 school districts covered by The Post Newspapers. He declined to name which ones had applicants because such information could cause shooters to target the districts without a trained staff member or to target that person first. However, Irvine did say that none of those schools currently allow staff to carry guns.
The total number of applicants come from all over Ohio and some from nearby states. Irvine said 29 percent of interested people come from urban areas, 31 percent from rural areas and 40 percent from suburban areas. It’s also fairly evenly divided by school size. As for gender, 61 percent of applicants are male and 39 percent female, a breakdown similar to that of concealed carry weapons courses according to Irvine.
“The respondents run the gamut, from people who carry a gun every day to those with no experience at all,” he said. “Some people said they just don’t feel safe in our schools.”
Locally, Medina School Superintendent Randy Stepp was adamantly against the idea of arming teachers with guns.
“Personally, I think it’s a bad idea to consider arming teachers. I’m not sure that putting guns in classrooms is necessarily the answer to the problem,” he said.
Instead, Stepp preferred officials focus on improving mental health services and better ways of handling those who may need such services. He also said schools should look at the current security policies in place and develop good relationships with local safety services.
“We need to ensure we are doing the best response available, not just for intruders, but also other emergency situations such as gas explosions, tornadoes, you name it,” he said. “As far as addressing the intruder situation, I do not think that arming teachers is the answer. However I would be in favor of security in buildings as a nice way to help support the safety safety and security policies within the district.”
Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci declined to comment on the question of arming teachers.
Irvine claimed an armed response is the best way to lower the body count when faced with an active shooter situation. Arming teachers and administrators is another layer of protection in case entrance security or other measures fail.
The Armed Teacher Training Program is “an intensive three-day class where you will learn many of the same skills and tactics used by first responders. Your instructors will include professional law enforcement personnel with knowledge of active shooter situations.” Participants are required to pass a background check and will not be allowed to attend if they are prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Irvine said that, in addition to learning how to use a gun, program participants would learn how to treat causalities and how to best protect their classrooms. There will also be an emphasis on how to recognize potential issues and deal with that person before the situation escalates to violence.
Buckeye Firearms plans to develop a curriculum that can be used in other states, as well, in response to the overwhelming number of applications.
“We need to do this as quickly as we can do it excellently,” Irvine said.
While guns or other weapons are not allowed in schools per the Ohio Revised Code, they are legally permitted if given prior written approval by the local school board. If that permission were to be granted, it would need to be in a meeting open to the public and become part of publicly-available information.
Using the same logic with which he refused to disclose the participants and their school districts, Irvine said that Buckeye Firearms is lobbying the state legislature to change the laws to allow school boards to give permission for teachers to be armed without it becoming public record.