Tennessee Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing School Staff to Carry Concealed Handguns

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
April 23, 2024US News
Tennessee Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing School Staff to Carry Concealed Handguns
The flag atop the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville flew at half-staff, on April 19. (Chase Smith/The Epoch Times)

Tennessee lawmakers on Tuesday sent a bill to the governor that would allow school staff to carry concealed handguns on campus.

The Tennessee House approved the bill with a 68-28 vote, a year after a deadly school shooting that claimed six lives in Nashville. The state Senate, which is also controlled by the GOP, passed the measure earlier this month.

Four House Republicans and all Democrats opposed the bill, which will now go to Republican Governor Bill Lee. If he doesn’t veto it, it becomes law, regardless of whether he signs it.

According to the bill’s summary, faculty and staff wishing to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds must meet certain conditions. They must first obtain an enhanced carry permit and receive written approval from the school’s superintendent, principal, and the chief of the relevant law enforcement agency.

Additionally, they are required to complete 40 hours of basic training in school policing and another 40 hours of training approved by the Peace Officer’s Standards and Training commission specifically related to school policing each year, at their own expense.

Moreover, they must pass a background check and undergo a psychological evaluation conducted by a licensed healthcare provider in Tennessee.

Under the bill, it would be prohibited to reveal which school employees are carrying firearms to anyone, including parents, other than school administrators and law enforcement officials.

‘A Lot of Misinformation’

Republican state Sen. Paul Bailey, who co-sponsored the bill, sought to clear up what he said was “a lot of misinformation” about the bill, noting that it “does not require any teacher in this state to carry a gun while working.”

“This bill is completely permissive. It simply gives a faculty or staff member the option,” he said.

Handguns would not be allowed to be carried in stadiums, gymnasiums, or auditoriums when school-sponsored events are in progress. Nor would they be allowed to be carried into meetings where tenure or disciplinary matters are being discussed.

The firearms also cannot be carried openly “or in any other manner in which the handgun is visible to ordinary observation.”

Speaking on the House floor, Republican State Representative Ryan Williams said the bill would enhance security measures in schools.

“I believe that this is a method by which we can do that, because what you’re doing is you’re creating a deterrent,” Mr. Williams said.

Democrats, a minority in the state legislature, and gun control activists strongly objected to the legislation.

Republicans rejected several amendments put forward by Democrats, including requirements for parental consent, notification when someone is armed, and the school district assuming civil liability for any injury, damage, or death due to staff carrying guns.

“My Republican colleagues continue to hold our state hostage, hold our state at gunpoint to appeal to their donors in the gun industry,” Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones said. “It is morally insane.”


After the bill was passed in the legislature, protesters stormed onto the state House floor, causing chaos and expressing their disapproval. This ultimately led to House Speaker Cameron Sexton ordering the galleries to be cleared.

Protesters in the gallery could be heard chanting, “Blood on your hands,” during disrupted proceedings as Republican and Democratic state representatives argued on the floor, accusing each other of breaking rules.

Speaking on the House floor, Democratic state Rep. Bo Mitchell opposed the measure, citing the Covenant School shooting in Nashville last year, which resulted in the deaths of three children and three adults.

“This is what we’re going to do. This is our reaction to teachers and children being murdered in a school, our reaction is gonna throw more guns at it. What’s wrong with us?” Mr. Mitchell said.

As Mr. Mitchell appeared to drift off the topic of amendments, apologizing to the parents of Covenant School students, the Tennessee House Speaker appeared to mute his microphone.

“I’m sorry that you’ve had to sit here and listen to this. We’ve done nothing for you. We’ve lied to you. They’ve said they’re going to do stuff,” Mr. Mitchell said, before being cut off by the House speaker.

“Stay on your amendment, please,” Mr. Sexton said.

However, Mr. Mitchell carried on even with his microphone turned off.

In March 2023, a shooter opened fire at the Covenant School, a Christian school in Nashville, killing three children and three adults before being killed by the police.

Outside the chamber, demonstrators held a “die-in” protest, where they pretended to be dead. Some held signs that read, “Tennesseans don’t want this,” referring to the legislation. Another held a sign that read, “Arm teachers with fully funded schools, not guns.”

This protest was joined by Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones, who was expelled last year for disregarding House rules before being quickly reinstated.

“This is what fascism looks like,” Mr. Jones wrote on X after the debate was “cut off.”

Everytown for Gun Safety, an activist group opposing the measure, called it “reckless.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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