Tennessee lawmakers pass bill allowing teachers, school staff to be armed

Apr 27, 2024, 7:00 AM | Updated: Apr 29, 2024, 9:45 am

Gun reform activists protest SB 1325 in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 23....

Gun reform activists protest SB 1325 in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 23. (Seth Herald/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

(Seth Herald/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — State legislators in Tennessee passed a bill Tuesday allowing teachers and school staff to carry a gun on school grounds.

The bill, according to the summary, authorizes a faculty or staff member of a school to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds subject to certain conditions:

  • Get an enhanced carry permit
  • Get written authorization from the superintendent, principal and the chief of the appropriate law enforcement agency
  • Complete 40 hours of basic training in school policing and 40 hours of Peace Officer’s Standards and Training commission-approved training that is specific to school policing each year at the educator’s expense
  • Complete a background check
  • Undergo a psychological exam conducted by a Tennessee-licensed healthcare provider

After the vote on the bill, people in the room were heard chanting, “Blood on your hands.”

Republican Gov. Bill Lee has signed the bill into law Friday, according to CNN affiliate WSMV.

CNN has reached out to Lee’s office for comment.

The bill puts the nationwide debate over arming educators back in the spotlight as mass shootings continue not only in American schools but at parades, festivals, places of worship and more. Gun violence is the leading killer of children in the United States – so far, 436 children under 18 have been killed in gun violence this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

In March of 2023, three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a private elementary school in Nashville. The shooter, a 28-year-old former student, was shot and killed by police.

Thirty-four states bar teachers and the general public from carrying guns in K-12 schools, according to data from Everytown for Gun Safety.

Under the bill, parents would not necessarily know or be notified if their child’s teacher were armed – a point of contention for many of the bill’s opponents.

“A teacher is not allowed to put a rainbow flag on her desk, but she’s allowed to carry a gun in this state,” Democratic state Sen. Raumesh Akbari said.

Bill co-sponsor Republican state Sen. Paul Bailey said there is “a lot of misinformation” about the legislation, which “does not require any teacher in this state to carry a gun while working.”

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

The bill does not, however, allow weapons to be carried openly “or in any other manner in which the handgun is visible to ordinary observation,” and does not allow handguns to be carried in “stadiums, gymnasiums, or auditoriums when school-sponsored events are in progress,” nor in meetings where tenure or disciplinary matters are being discussed.

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Tennessee lawmakers pass bill allowing teachers, school staff to be armed