Agarwal: The need for gun control

Why Ohio HB’s 99 and 227 should not be signed into law

Aambar Agarwal, Staff Writer

In 2019, 73% of homicides in the United States involved guns. To put this in perspective, only 39% of homicides in Canada and 4% of homicides in England and Wales involved guns in 2019 and 2020, respectively. In fact, the U.S. had the second-highest number of gun-related deaths in the world that year. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. also has the highest levels of civilian gun ownership globally, with 120.5 civilian-owned firearms per 100 people, nearly double those of the Falkland Islands, which comes in second place with 62.1 civilian-owned firearms per 100 people. And Americans are buying even more guns than they have in the past, with nearly 23 million purchased in 2020—a 65% percent increase from 2019.

Despite the widespread gun violence in the U.S.—with 2021 on track to be the worst year for gun violence in decades—gun control remains a divisive topic. Only around half of Americans believe that laws regulating firearms sales should be stricter, and politics reflect this sentiment, with politicians on the federal level failing to pass impactful gun control legislation. Instead, the opposite is occurring; legislators have been introducing laws that ease regulations on the usage of firearms.

In Ohio, bills that make it easier for teachers, custodians and bus drivers to carry firearms in schools and for adults to carry concealed firearms passed the Ohio House last month. These bills are illogical in the face of increasing gun-related deaths, and if signed into law, they will only help perpetuate gun violence.

Currently, teachers, custodians and bus drivers are required to complete a minimum of approximately 728 hours of peace officer training before carrying guns in Ohio schools that permit armed faculty. House Bill 99 aims to reduce the training to a minimum of 18 hours of general training and two hours of handgun training. Why should school faculty be required to train for significantly less time than law enforcement officers when their primary job is to educate students and maintain schools?

Representatives in the House argued that expecting faculty to complete over 700 hours of training is unrealistic, especially considering schools’ limited budgets for putting officers on the premises and the frequency of school shootings. By reducing the required training hours for faculty and making it easier for them to be armed at school, the representatives believe that students will be safer from shooters. However, they fail to acknowledge that reducing the minimum number of hours spent training allows poorly-qualified staff to be armed in schools. These faculty members will pose a threat to the students, as they will not have undergone the comprehensive training that helps them understand how and in what situations they should use their firearms. As a result of their insufficient training, they may unintentionally hurt students during crises, where their quick thinking is crucial.

Furthermore, due to the ease of being armed, misguided faculty members could potentially perpetuate gun violence and intentionally hurt their students on ordinary school days, thus posing the same threat as other school shooters. Therefore, a more logical solution to this dilemma would be to give enough funding to school districts for school resources officers, who will undergo the full 728 hours of peace officer training, rather than lessening gun control. Instating more in-depth and properly enforced background checks would also prevent prospective shooters from obtaining guns.

In a similar vein, House Bill 227 eases regulations on concealed carry. The bill removes the current requirement of passing an eight-hour course and background check before practicing concealed carry, allowing any resident above 21 years of age to be armed with a concealed weapon. Those who are currently not qualified to carry concealed firearms will be able to do so, putting citizens at a greater risk of violence by armed residents, just as students are by armed faculty.

Easing firearm regulations makes little sense when gun violence already dominates the U.S. and continues to get worse—especially given the glaring correlation between the frequency of civilian-owned firearms and gun violence. If the U.S. wants to improve its citizens’ lives, it needs to stop easing and instead instate more effective and comprehensive gun regulations. Hopefully, the Biden administration will be able to push through meaningful gun control legislation before midterms, and, in the meantime, the Ohio Senate will not sign these bills into law.