Apr 16, 2024 - News

Tennessee students and parents protest arming teachers

Two people hugging at an anti-gun protest.

A mother and son embrace yesterday during a protest against a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns. Photo: Ray Di Pietro

Covenant School parents and student protesters made a passionate appeal Monday to stop legislation that would allow some public school teachers to carry concealed guns on campus.

Why it matters: The bill would continue a years-long trend of Tennessee Republicans expanding access to firearms. But advocates for gun control, who have participated in many demonstrations since the Covenant School shooting last year, have pleaded with lawmakers to stop the measure.

  • Students from multiple schools walked out of class Monday and marched to the Tennessee Capitol to protest the bill.

State of play: The Senate approved the bill last week along party lines. House committees vetted their version of the bill last year. It was tabled before a final vote on the House floor, but it could be revived.

  • If the House approves the bill, it would go to Gov. Bill Lee.

Zoom in: The bill would allow K-12 public school employees to carry a gun if they pass a background check, receive training and meet other requirements.

  • The district schools director, the principal and a law enforcement leader would also need to sign off. But parents would not be informed if their child's teacher was armed.

Republican lawmakers argue arming teachers could make a school safer in the face of a mass shooting, particularly in rural areas with less law enforcement. Opponents say it would do the opposite.

What they're saying: At a press conference, two Covenant parents said teachers need to focus on keeping their students safe during shootings rather than confronting the shooter.

  • One of the parents read a letter from an unnamed Covenant teacher who described barricading a classroom and hiding in a closet with 3-year-old preschool students.

"As I reflect on this time I simply cannot imagine how I could have pulled out a gun with 10 children under foot and in my arms," the teacher wrote. "I think of all the terrible things that could have gone wrong had I had a gun."

  • "Teachers seek to educate, love, inspire and nurture children. … We do not seek to shoot and kill."
  • "I am very concerned that if this bill that arms teachers passes, we will lose the best and the brightest in the education field while adding much more opportunity for gun related accidents."

The latest: Rep. Ryan Williams, the Cookeville Republican who sponsored the House version, told WKRN he planned to revive the bill for a final vote before lawmakers adjourn in the coming days.

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