Senate Bill 199, which was passed during the lame duck session and signed by the governor in December, significantly expands the rights of certain individuals to possess weapons on public school grounds.
State law generally prohibits an individual from conveying or possessing a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone (R.C. 2923.122). R.C. 2901.01 defines a school safety zone to include a school, school building, school premises, school activity, and school bus. Violators may be charged with misdemeanor or felony criminal offenses.

There are a few exceptions to this prohibition, including one that grants a school district board of education the authority to issue written permission for an individual to possess a weapon on school grounds. Additional, narrowly tailored exceptions apply for police officers, security personnel, school employees, and students under certain circumstances. The new law further expands these exceptions in three key areas.

First, the bill specifically authorizes an individual to possess a concealed handgun in a school safety zone as long as the individual either remains in a motor vehicle with the gun or leaves the gun behind in the locked vehicle. For this exception to apply, the individual must have an active concealed-carry permit or must be an active-duty member of the armed forces who is carrying a valid military identification card and documentation of successful completion of firearms training (the training must meet or exceed requirements for concealed permit holder training).

Next, the new law expands the right of law enforcement officers to carry a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone at any time regardless of whether the officer is on active duty. The prior version of the law limited such rights to law enforcement officers who were on active duty only.

Finally, the new law now permits the possession and use of an object indistinguishable from a firearm during a school safety training.

The law became effective March 21, 2017. School districts should review board policies that regulate use and possession of weapons on school grounds and should contact legal counsel with questions about how the law will impact district operations.