Tennessee teachers step closer to carrying firearms in classroom after state lawmakers pass House bill

by Vern Evans

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Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a GOP-backed bill on Tuesday that will allow schoolteachers to carry firearms on school grounds, though the names of the armed instructors would not be published to the public.

Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers in Tennessee joined together to approve Senate Bill 1325 with a 26-5 vote. The bill allows a teacher or faculty member who meets certain requirements, to possess and carry a firearm on school grounds.

In order to carry a handgun, teachers must have a handgun carry permit, have written authorization from both the school’s principal and local law enforcement and undergo 40 hours of handgun training. The worker must also not be prohibited from purchasing, possessing and carrying a handgun under Tennessee or federal law, as determined by a background check.

On Tuesday, the House in the state Legislature continued to push the bill closer to becoming law by passing the sister bill by a 68-28 vote. It now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law.

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Last year, a fatal shooting at The Covenant School, a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, left three children and three adults dead.

The state Senate’s approval of the bill sparked outcries from teachers, students, Democratic lawmakers and even Covenant School parents.

On Tuesday, protesters screamed, “Blood on your hands,” before House speaker Cameron Sexton called for state troopers to remove them from the balcony, FOX 17 in Nashville reported.

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Man handgun concealed carry

Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, called the bill “morally insane.”

“Republicans continue to hold our state hostage,” he reportedly said. “God have mercy on you that you do not hear the pain of these mothers saying to protect kids, not guns.”

One of the sponsors of the bill, Sen. Paul Bailey, said the bill allows staff and faculty to carry arms if they choose to, but in order to carry a gun, they must go through 40 hours of training and undergo a psychological evaluation.

Rep. Ryan Williams, another sponsor of the bill, said the standards teachers must meet in order to carry in a Tennessee school will be “very high.”

The law is considered “100% permissive,” according to Williams, and is up to school districts to implement. Approval also falls on law enforcement and school administrators.

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Business-Taxes-Tennessee

Williams also said the bill is intended to be a deterrent, adding the identities of teachers carrying guns would not be released.

Still, Rep. Jason Powell, a Democrat from Nashville, said the law “makes me sick to my stomach,” adding it is dangerous.

“It’s going to have dangerous impacts around the world,” Powell reportedly said. “Think about law enforcement. It’s going to delay responses. It’s going to put law enforcement in danger. How will they know who’s the assailant and who’s the teacher with the gun?”

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Gov. Bill Lee

Lee did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the matter.

Before its passage, the bill’s proponents argued teachers and faculty could serve as a more immediate response force to a shooting situation. They said it could be particularly helpful in rural counties with limited law enforcement resources.

The contentious bill comes approximately a year after a deadly shooting last March at The Covenant School. The shooter, who was killed at the scene by police, killed three children and three adults during the rampage.

The bill also comes amid a larger push from Tennessee Republicans to loosen gun laws, including signing off on permitless carry for handguns in 2021.

The push includes an effort to expand the state’s permitless carry law to include long guns.

 

The original law allowed residents 21 and older to carry handguns in public without a permit. Two years later, Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti then allowed 18- to 20-year-olds to carry handguns publicly.

Lawmakers also approved a bill that would allow private schools with pre-kindergarten classes to have guns on campus. The governor has not yet signed it into law.

Fox News Digital’s Lawrence Richard and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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