Rep. Kristina Roegner, from Hudson, introduces school safety bill in Ohio House

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

Columbus -- A Republican lawmaker from the Akron area introduced legislation Jan. 30 aimed making schools safer.

Rep. Kristina Roegner, from Hudson, said House Bill 8 is a placeholder, meaning its contents will be developed during coming committee deliberations.

But the bill could include firearms-related provisions as lawmakers grapple with their legislative response to the recent school shooting in Connecticut that left more than two dozen people, mostly youngsters, dead.

"Certainly, it's a priority for the House, not only in this state but I imagine across the nation, to make sure that our children are safe," Roegner said. "So that's what this legislation will do."

In Ohio, only on-duty officers, hired security guards and those given permission by school boards are allowed to carry. Roegner recounted a recent conversation with a couple of police chiefs who suggested allowing off-duty officers carry firearms on school grounds.

"The idea that these gentlemen brought to me was what about off-duty police officers?" she said. "They have the same training, they're the same people, they want to protect the public, they know how to use their weapons. Why do they have to take their weapon off when they go into school and they're off duty? That's just one example of something that might be in the bill."

Also Jan. 30, the Senate announced the creation of a new joint committee on school safety to consider comparable issues. Sen. Frank LaRose, a Republican from the Akron area, is serving as co-chairman.

"Our only agenda is to make sure our children are as safe as they can be and that we deter those who have violent intentions," Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican from Celina, said in a released statement. "This committee will engage safety experts and the public in a thoughtful discussion to find reasonable solutions to the problem of violence in public spaces."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has said he is open to allowing trained school staff to carry firearms, and his office is offering training to teachers and school officials on how to respond to shooting incidents.

Roegner's legislation was introduced Jan. 30, the same day of hearings in Washington, D.C., on gun issues. Among those testifying was former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head a year ago and suffered brain damage as a result.

Gun control advocates are pushing for prohibitions on certain types of weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Many firearms advocates, however, are calling for increased efforts to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill or those with violent tendencies rather than outright weapons bans.

"We need to have a national conversation about our culture of violence and also about identifying, diagnosing and treating those with mental challenges that would perpetrate these kinds of crimes," said Republican Congressman Bill Johnson, whose district stretches along the Ohio River in the eastern part of the state. "I don't agree with those using their first amendment right to attack law-abiding citizens Second Amendment rights."

He added, "We're looking toward mental health issues, we're looking toward other opportunities to make our schools secure."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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