In Tennessee, A Bill That Would Let Some Teachers Carry Guns Is Moving Forward. Parents Would Not Be Told

In Tennessee, A Bill That Would Let Some Teachers Carry Guns Is Moving Forward. Parents Would Not Be Told

Tuesday, a bill to let some public school teachers carry weapons made progress in the Tennessee Senate. This came as new attempts to tighten the state’s lax gun laws after last year’s mass shooting in Nashville was shot down by the Republican-controlled legislature.

The full Senate and House still have to vote on the bill. If it passes, it would allow a teacher or staff member to carry a concealed handgun at school after paying for and finishing 40 hours of certified training in school policing and passing an FBI background check and mental health evaluation.

The bill, which is backed by both Sen. Paul Bailey of Sparta and Rep. Ryan Williams of Cookeville, would let the local school district and police department decide if teachers or staff could carry a gun.

But parents would not be told if their child’s teacher was carrying a gun. This goes against the GOP’s focus on parental rights and parental notice about school issues like curriculum and library materials.

Bailey told the senators, “The director of schools, the principal, and the chief of the local police department are the only people who know who is allowed to carry, and they are not to tell anyone else if someone is allowed to carry on school grounds or not.”

The 7-1 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee comes as Tennessee’s government continues to pass laws that make school campuses safer instead of laws that make it harder to get guns. Tennessee is one of the most gun-friendly states in the country.

After a shooter killed three kids and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville last year, the legislature spent $230 million and passed laws to improve school buildings, give each school a school security officer, and make sure that all school doors stay locked.

Later, Gov. Bill Lee called lawmakers back to the capitol for an extra meeting to talk about public safety. Concerns about easy access to guns were raised by the March 27 shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, where a 28-year-old intruder, who police said was seeing a doctor for a “emotional disorder,” used legally bought guns to shoot through the glass doors. However, none of the bills that passed specifically addressed these concerns.

This year, bills in the legislature would require age-appropriate gun safety training for kids as young as kindergarten; change the way school fire alarms work to account for active-shooter situations; start a pilot program to give teachers wearable alarms; make school bus drivers safer; and set rules for digitizing school maps so first responders can quickly find school layouts in an emergency, among other things.

Meanwhile, bills backed by Democrats that would have made it harder to get guns by expanding background checks and encouraging safe gun storage have been quickly shot down. Earlier on Tuesday, a plan to ban semi-automatic rifles in Tennessee was thrown out by a House panel without being discussed.

One of the top three concerns of Tennessee parents about schools is safety. However, a new poll from the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy shows that a lot fewer parents think that schools are safer when teachers are armed.

A Memphis Democrat named Sen. London Lamar voted against the bill because he thought that adding more guns would not help stop gun crime.

“I do not believe it is the duty of teachers in our state, who took an oath to teach our children, to now become police officers,” she said.

Lamar was also worried about a part of the proposed law that would protect school districts and police from being sued over how a teacher or other school worker uses or doesn’t use a gun.

Tennessee teachers’ and school superintendents’ groups would rather have policies that put a cop in every school than ones that let teachers carry guns.

According to Bailey, almost a third of the state’s more than 1,800 public schools still don’t have a school security officer, even though the state has given them a lot of money to pay for one.

Because of low pay, job stress, and changing public attitudes about the field, law enforcement agencies have had a hard time hiring enough people.

“Everyone is short right now, but it’s been going on for years,” said Tennessee School Resource Officers Association head Kyle Cheek.

Cheek, who is in charge of Maury County’s school-based officers, said that a teacher would need a lot of training beyond a basic firearms course in order to be able to police schools. It would also make other people worry.

He told Chalkbeat, “Who watches the teacher’s class while they look into a security issue?” “I have a lot of responsibility.”

The Senate bill for Bailey is moving forward, which means that the full Senate and House will probably vote on it this month before the end of the two-year session.

The House version passed through many committees last year, but Williams did not push for a vote by the whole body after the Covenant tragedy, which led gun control supporters to hold large protests at the Capitol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *