Tennessee Bill Allows Teachers to Possess Concealed Handguns in Class

News & Politics

A year after transgender Audrey Hale entered and shot innocent people at the Covenant Christian School in Nashville, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns at school to protect their students and themselves.

In a 68-28 vote on Tuesday, Tennessee legislators voted in favor of HB 1202/SB 1321, which allows some teachers and staff to carry concealed handguns on public school grounds. The bill also indicates that parents and other teachers won’t know which staff members have possession of a handgun. 

All but four Republicans supported the bill and all Democrats voted against it, but it still passed with flying colors.

Armed teachers will go through intense training in order to be allowed to carry concealed handguns in their classrooms and around their school if Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) doesn’t veto it when it reaches his desk (Lee has reportedly never vetoed a bill).

Additionally, the school district’s director of schools, the school principal and the chief of the area’s law enforcement agency must sign off on each staff member’s authority to carry a gun. As The Tennessean noted, staff would also be required to pass criminal and mental health background checks prior to gaining the authority to carry a gun on school grounds.

This bill comes at a time when six families are still heartbroken after their loved ones were shot dead when Audrey Hale entered the Christian school and ruthlessly took their lives.

While the bill has the potential to stop a school shooter like Hale, it faced criticism and pushback. 

Some critics insisted it would lead to “unintended consequences,” like a teacher accidentally leaving the gun unattended for a “student to find” or that it is a “bad disaster and tragedy waiting to happen,” The Tennessean reported.

Other critics insisted that Tennessee schools should just rely on School Resource Officers (SROs) to be armed and protect the school, but realistically SROs can’t possibly protect hundreds of students at one time, not to mention “nearly 600 schools do not have an SRO in place” due to staffing issues, The Tennessean added.

Bill sponsor, State Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Dist. 42), noted that the bill doesn’t force anyone to carry a gun at school but opens up the option in the case that approved personnel do want to – it simply requires that school personnel consider allowing qualified and approved carriers to possess a gun on school grounds. 

Williams hopes that this, as well as the fact that it won’t be publicized which teachers and staff are carrying, will serve as a deterrent from violent people who seek to shoot up schools. 

Opponents of the bill called it “absolutely insane” and said that they “think it’s a parent’s job to know if their child is being put at risk by having someone in the classroom with a firearm that another child could find, that could be discharged and actually harm them or other kids.” Others held signs outside the State House saying things like “SHAME” and “1 Kid > All the guns.”

Other opponents staged a “die in” where they laid on the floor of the house building and later screamed like lunatics once it was passed. 

On the other hand, supporters thought similarly to Williams and those who voted for the passing of the bill.

Here’s what Vigilant News reported: 

And here we find the disconnect that anti-gun advocates don’t grasp:  They seem to believe that the mere presence of a gun will automatically trigger violence, as if it has magical powers to attract and inspire evil.  In reality, the problem is evil people, not “evil” objects.  There’s nothing stopping a bad person from acquiring and using a firearm for terrible purposes at any place of their choosing.  Gun free zones only prevent good people from carrying.

Tennessee would become at least the 30th state that allows some teachers to carry firearms, if passed, but time will tell. Whether the bill becomes law or doesn’t, it seems like there’s going to be some people on both sides who are not satisfied.

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