You’ve no doubt heard about our victorious lawsuits against Columbus and Cincinnati over unconstitutional bump stock laws. But there’s another lawsuit we’ve been involved with recently that you probably know nothing about.
It’s called Gabbard v. Madison Local School District and it may be the most important firearm legal case in Ohio.
The case involves Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety coming to Ohio and trying to prevent Madison Local Schools in Middletown from arming staff after completing our Foundation’s FASTER Saves Lives training. Both our Foundation and the FASTER program are mentioned in the suit, ostensibly brought by parents in the district who claim Ohio law requires more than 700 hours of peace officer training before staff can carry guns in schools.
While the Everytown attorneys maintain they are interested only in the safety of children, we believe the real goal is to shut down the FASTER program and set a legal precedent that would prevent teachers, or anyone else, from carrying firearms in schools unless they are police officers. Given that no school employee could ever be expected to complete that much training, and given the expense of hiring security or police officers, a loss in this case would essentially prevent nearly anyone from being armed in Ohio schools.
Upon the advice of our attorney, we have not reported on this case until now because, while the school district has their own attorneys, we had filed a Motion to Intervene in order to properly represent the facts about FASTER Saves Lives training. The judge denied our motion and subsequently ruled in favor of Madison Local Schools. So we are now free to report on this important case.
On January 29, 2013, then-Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a letter debunking claims made by Ohio School Board Association’s chief legal counsel regarding the legality of armed teachers. This week, Butler County Judge Charles Pater ruled the same.
Judge Pater’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought against the Madison, Ohio school district after the board of education decide to arm faculty to protect students. The suit was brought by parents who apparently would prefer their children remain unprotected in schools. The parents are receiving financial backing for the lawsuit by Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for For Gun Safety.
In their suit, the parents made the same faulty arguments that DeWine debunked back in 2013 – namely that ORC 109.78, which says that no public or private educational institution is permitted to employ a person “who goes armed while on duty” unless the person has completed a basic peace-officer training program or has 20 years of active duty as a peace officer, applied to non-security personnel.
From Judge Pater’s comments, as reported by the Journal-News:
Pater said his reading of the statutes doesn’t require school staff to be treated as security personnel requiring 700-plus hours of peace officer training. “To read it in context it would easily be rational to say what this is talking about is a position — and it’s not designated as a security position, it’s not designated as a law enforcement position — but some position which encompasses carrying a firearm,” he said. “The position of custodian, of secretary, the position of teacher, the position of a school administrator … those positions as positions don’t encompass, don’t require carrying firearms.”
This is the same finding that DeWine found in 2013:
I do not believe that R.C. 109.78(D) applies to non-security personnel. Put simply, it is unlikely that the General Assembly intended this language to reach every school employee. Had they intended to do so, they would have simply said that no school may employ “any person who goes armed.” Instead, the General Assembly’s use of “special police officer, security guard, or other position” suggests that “other positions” applies to security personnel. Thus, a board of education or governing body of a school may give non-security personnel written authorization to carry a weapon onto the premises. R.C. 2923.122(D)(1)(a).
Two Madison teachers and an administrator took part in the Buckeye Firearms Foundation’s FASTER Saves Lives program last June, and a statement the Journal-News received from the superintendent indicates the school board has authorized 10 people to carry guns in school.
The argument by the Everytown lawyers is absurd on its face because Ohio Peace Officer Training includes topics such as law, driving a police car, writing reports, and other issues which have nothing to do with stopping an active killer. Ironically, the Ohio Peace Officer Training includes little to nothing about active killer tactics, which the FASTER program focuses on exclusively along with “stop the bleed” training for those with critical injuries.
Madison Schools have good reason to want armed staff: three years ago a classmate shot four students. This presented a wake up call to the district, showing yet again that no school is exempt from tragedy and failing to prepare for such incidents is irresponsible.
FASTER Saves Lives
In response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adult staff members, Buckeye Firearms Foundation launched an emergency response training program here in Ohio for teachers, administrators, and other school staff.
Called FASTER Saves Lives (Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response), the nonprofit program has to date provided high-level training to 2,000 teachers and staff members from 250 school districts in 15 states. This includes teachers and staff in 77 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
“The response from Ohio educators has been more enthusiastic than we could have ever imagined,” said Joe Eaton, FASTER Program Director.
“When we first announced that we planned to train teachers in armed response and emergency medical aid,” Eaton continued, “some people said teachers would never sign up. But within days of announcing the program, we had 600 apply for training. In weeks, it soared to over 1,000. Today we have over 3,000 faculty members from all over Ohio on our mailing list. And more are contacting us every day.”
The enthusiasm for this program has gone far beyond Ohio. School staff from six other states have attended FASTER training. In addition, instructors from as far away as Colorado have traveled to Ohio to see how the program works and take the idea back to their home state.
Created by concerned parents, law enforcement, and nationally-recognized safety and medical experts, FASTER is a groundbreaking, nonprofit program that gives educators practical violence response training.
The program is funded by Buckeye Firearms Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable educational organization based in Ohio and the sister organization to Buckeye Firearms Association. Classes can be provided at NO COST to school personnel or school districts. Restrictions apply.
The program presents a carefully-structured curriculum with over 30 hours of hands-on training over a 3-day class that exceeds the requirements of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
The purpose is not to replace police and EMT, but to allow teachers, administrators, and other personnel on-site to stop school violence rapidly and render medical aid immediately. It is a well-established fact that faster response to school shootings and other violence results in fewer lives lost.
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is co-founder of BFA-PAC, and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.