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Tennessee bill to allow armed teachers passes

April 10, 2024

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WTVF) — Tensions mounted in the Tennessee Senate on Tuesday, as troopers removed people from the gallery and lawmakers voted to allow teachers to carry handguns in schools.

Senate members vote 26-5 on the effort, or by party lines.

The House version of the bill is sitting idle on the desk, meaning it’s on hold. It can be brought up again this legislative session, but it’s not dead.

SB1325/HB1202 would allow faculty or staff at a school to carry a concealed handgun on school property.

For those wanting to carry, they will have to go through several steps to do so.

Teachers wanting to carry will have to have:

– an enhanced carry permit – written authorisation from the superintendent and principal and law enforcement – complete 40 hours of basic training in school policing and 40 hours of POST commission-approved training that is specific to school policing each year in order to keep the authorisation – must obtain a background check – undergo a psychological exam conducted by a Tennessee-licensed psychologist

Those carrying would also have immunity from any financial damages.

Parents won’t know which teachers are armed, meaning a child’s teacher could carry but their parents won’t know.

“Regarding the portion of confidentially, that is because of the element of surprise,” Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, said.

“If you are a possible intruder, you don’t know if the person you encounter is an authorised faculty or staff member. That maybe will change their mind about coming.”

While the bill went through its Senate processes, people were asked to leave the gallery as they were loud in opposition to the bill.

Democrats voted no against the bill in a block albeit a small one.

“I saw many laughing like it’s funny,” said Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis.

“I am offended by many of my colleagues on the floor. This is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation to come out of this assembly. They took an oath to give our kids writing and arithmetic, and we are now making them as law enforcement. It will enable the next school shooter. It’s going to be a teacher with this next legislation. Use common sense.”

Other Democratic lawmakers tried to get others to extend empathy and pointed out that many up on the hill to discuss legislation for keeping kids safer at school haven’t asked for the bill.

They also brought up that it’s not teachers clamouring to carry on campuses.

“This isn’t sane,” Sen. Heidi Campbell said. Campbell has constituents in her district who were affected by The Covenant School mass shooting in 2023.

“This isn’t healthy. It’s obvious that people are passionately telling us they don’t want it to happen. What is freedom? They want the freedom to be able to send their kids to school without their kids being shot by a gun. That’s freedom. It seems like we do backflips to protect people who sell guns.”

Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, said he felt like what was being said was incorrect, but he didn’t point what was inaccurate during his articulation of denouncing Democratic comments.

However, he felt arming teachers would keep his schools safer because of the rural nature of the district he covers.

His counties include Campbell, Clay, Fentress, Macon, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Roane and Scott Counties.

“The subject is emotionally charged. I am standing in support of this bill,” Yager said.

“Rural counties like I serve where they may only have two deputies on a shift. What can be wreaked in that 30 minute period. Protect children. That’s what it’s all about.”

Senate leadership had the Tennessee Highway Patrol clear the gallery.

Covenant mom Sarah Shoop Neumann said the noise and the troopers rushing into the gallery gives her PTSD surrounding law enforcement on March 27 and their placement along Hillsboro Road.

She said it was difficult for her to be there.

“It shows another example of not hearing those in Tennessee,” Neumann said. “I sit silently. I do as they ask as many others did. It’s unfair to clear a room of everyone because you’re unhappy with their belief system. When I heard people being loud, I knew this was how things would end. I am not surprised. I have met with multiple legislators on this bill. They have put some thoughtful consideration, but it would be my ask with no one with a direct responsibility of students have a gun. There’s a lot more that needs to happen and we aren’t going anywhere. I have voted conservative or independent my entire life. This is something we are all asking for. We can’t shut people down and kick them out.”

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