HomeFeaturedTeacher Gun-Carry Bill Passed in TN House and Senate

Teacher Gun-Carry Bill Passed in TN House and Senate

Measure sent to Gov. Bill Lee for his signature

By Sabrina Bates

Staff Writer

After a week on hold, followed by two hours of discussion, a teacher gun-carry in public schools proposal has passed the Tennessee House of Representatives. The measure was substituted for the Senate companion version of the bill on Tuesday when it carried the House by a vote of 68 in favor and 28 against. Two representatives, Clay Doggett (R-70) of Pulaski and Kirk Haston (R-72) of Lobelville, opted to be recorded as “present, but not voting” on the bill. Both representatives cast a vote against every Democratic-proposed amendment to the legislation prior to the final vote.

Senate Bill 1325 passed the Senate Chamber on its third and final consideration April 9. Sen. John Stevens (R-24) of Huntingdon was a co-sponsor of the Senate bill. 

Sen. Ed Jackson (R-25) of Jackson voted in favor of SB 1325. 

Locally, State Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-80) of Bolivar cast a vote against the bill. 

Rep. Chris Todd (R-73) of Madison County was a co-sponsor of House Bill 1202.

HB 1202 sponsor, Rep. Ryan Williams (R-42) of Cookeville, requested to hold the proposal on the clerk’s desk last week citing an effort of bipartisanship to allow for more time to discuss the measure. 

Under the legislation, a faculty or staff member of a school is allowed to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds as long as it does not violate Federal laws, the staff member obtains an enhanced handgun carry permit and completes 40 hours of POST training annually. Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) is the state standard in police training

The hands-on POST training was an additional requirement of the Senate version, according to Williams. The bill also requires the staff member who wants to carry adhere to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation background check, as well as a mental health background check.

In addition, information pertaining to employees of a school district who do carry a concealed weapon on school grounds is confidential.

Williams explained to his colleagues that the language of the bill allows counties and Local Education Agencies (school districts) to opt out of the measure. Apparently the costs for liability insurance for those who wish to carry are covered through that individual’s insurance policy as an enhanced concealed-carry permit holder.

During floor discussion, Williams reminded House members that a similar bill was passed by the Tennessee legislature in 2016 allowing teachers to conceal carry handguns at schools in the 13 counties considered economically distressed in the state. In 2017, Williams said, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill allowing faculty and staff members in higher education to conceal carry handguns. Williams claimed crime on Tennessee campuses was reduced by 20 percent, according to a TBI report. He said 3.133 percent of faculty and staff carry handguns on university campuses.

He noted that 32 other states, “red, blue and purple,” already have similar legislation pertaining to teacher gun carry. Williams said he has worked for many years on the legislation, with the idea of protecting those who are trapped and creating a deterrent for school shootings.

The legislation mandates a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between a school’s principal, local law enforcement in that jurisdiction and the director of schools to allow teachers and staff to conceal carry.

Prior to the final vote in the Tennessee House, several representatives spoke out in favor of the measure and against the measure, all falling in line with their respective political parties, with the majority of Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed to the bill.

Rep. Caleb Hemmer (D-59) of Nashville announced polling of 1,000 people, 49 percent who were firearm owners, by Vanderbilt showed only 37 percent felt their children would be safer with teachers carrying guns on campus.

Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-50) of Nashville quoted his colleague from Knox County, who stated in a previous session, “The teacher who wants a gun in the classroom is exactly the one I don’t want to have a gun in the classroom.” 

Mitchell reminded House members that this was the first piece of legislation surrounding firearms since the Covenant School shooting last year in Nashville. On March 27, 2023, a shooter entered the elementary school and killed six people, three of whom were students. He argued throwing guns at schools was not going to keep students safe.

Rep. Brock Martin (R-79) of Huntingdon spoke in favor of the legislation, noting that he trusted his LEO and school districts.

“If they think it will help with safety, I will support this,” Martin said.

Under the measure, teachers and other staff members who are approved to conceal carry are not allowed to bring their weapon into gymnasiums, auditoriums or stadiums during school-sponsored events. Williams said as they must carry the weapon on them, they would not be allowed to attend events such as school-wide pep rallies under the legislation.

The bill was sent to Gov. Bill Lee for his signature. Lee has 10 days, with the exception of Sundays, to sign or veto the measure. He has not vetoed any legislation during the 113th Tennessee General Assembly session. If he takes no action on the bill, it becomes law without his signature.

Sabrina Bates, sabrina@richardsonmediagroup.net

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