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Reading, Writing and Rugers: Tennessee House Passes Bill Allowing Armed Teachers in the Classroom

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Despite vocal protests from those opposed to the bill, the Tennessee House, led by Republicans, advanced legislation Tuesday permitting certain trained teachers and school staff to carry handguns on campus. This move, supported by proponents as a step toward enhancing school safety, particularly in rural areas, has sparked intense opposition from Democrats, some students and gun-reform advocates.

The bill, identified as HB 1202/SB 1321, was passed amidst chants of “Blood on your hands” from dozens of protesters in the gallery, leading House Speaker Cameron Sexton to direct state troopers to clear the area. The disruption underscored the divisive nature of the legislation, which could become law within weeks as Governor Bill Lee, who has not vetoed a bill during his tenure, considers his options.

Under the legislation, armed teachers would not be required to inform parents or most colleagues of their capability to carry firearms, with the exception of necessary disclosures to relevant law enforcement and designated school staff. Proponents, like state Rep. Ryan Williams, argue that the measure will enhance security and act as a deterrent against potential threats, citing insufficient staffing of school resource officers as a gap this bill aims to fill.

“This bill is permissive,” Williams stated, emphasizing that no school would be mandated to allow firearms but must consider requests from staff wishing to carry them. He further criticized the concept of “gun-free” school zones, suggesting they serve as targets for potential assailants.

Opposition to the bill remains strong, with critics concerned about the adequacy of the required training and the potential risks involved, including the accidental discharge of firearms and the possibility of guns falling into students’ hands. Democrats attempted to amend the bill to include measures such as mandatory secure storage of firearms and civil liability for misuse on campus, but these proposals were rejected.

“The secrecy clause that prevents general disclosure of who is armed within our schools creates an unacceptable risk,” argued Rep. Justin Pearson, reflecting concerns that parents should be informed about firearms in their children’s classrooms.

The bill has already faced opposition in the Senate, where parents of school shooting survivors and other advocates have voiced their fears and called for lawmakers to reconsider. One notable opposition came from Covenant School parents, who delivered a letter with over 5,300 signatures urging the defeat of the bill, citing concerns over the challenges and dangers of teachers taking on dual roles as educators and security personnel.

Tennessee awaits Governor Lee’s decision, while the debate continues to polarize communities across the state, reflecting broader national tensions over how best to protect students and staff at school.

 

What Do You Think? Should teachers be permitted to carry in schools or are other options such as armed guards or resource officers in school or no guns at all by anyone a better option? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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