Tennessee lawmakers give approval to arm teachers

Some public school teachers in Tennessee could gain new powers to carry concealed guns into the classroom following final approval by the state's Republican-led Legislature.

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April 25, 2024 - 2:34 PM

(AP) — Some public school teachers in Tennessee could gain new powers to carry concealed guns into the classroom, a year after a deadly school shooting in the state’s capital city stirred impassioned debate about the best ways to curb such violence.

The Republican-led Legislature in Tennessee gave final approval to the legislation Tuesday, just days after Republican governors in Iowa and Nebraska signed laws that also expand the potential for armed personnel in schools.

Tennessee lawmakers followed that up with more gun-rights measures Wednesday, giving final approval to bills letting retired law officers bring guns into schools and prohibiting local extreme-risk-protection ordinances that allow guns to be removed from people judged to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Both bills head next to Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who pushed unsuccessfully last year for a statewide measure that would allow some version of extreme risk protection orders.

The legislative action highlights a national divide on public safety and gun policies, coming as Democratic-led legislatures in Colorado, Maine and Vermont all took steps toward imposing greater firearm restrictions.

Legislatures in about 20 states already have passed measures this year to expand gun rights or restrict access to firearms.

Guns in Tennessee

A little over a year ago, a shooter opened fire at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, killing three children and three adults before police killed him.

Tensions ran high as lawmakers debated a response, peaking as the Republican majority expelled two Black Democratic House members last year for their role in a protest supporting gun control. Both lawmakers were subsequently reinstated.

Protests also broke out Tuesday after lawmakers passed the latest school gun legislation.

A previous Tennessee law already allowed some private school teachers and staff to carry guns.

The new measure would expand that to public schools with several conditions. Teachers and staff would first have to obtain a permit to carry a handgun, which requires passing a background check, getting mental health clearance and completing 40 hours of training in basic school policing. They also would need written authorization from the school’s principal and local law enforcement. And they wouldn’t be able to take guns into school events at stadiums, gymnasiums or auditoriums.

The legislation was one of several pro-gun bills passed this year in Tennessee.

On Monday, Lee signed a bill expanding the private school gun provisions to preschools. On Tuesday, Lee signed legislation requiring schools to provide age-appropriate instruction on firearm safety. And he signed legislation Tuesday prohibiting financial institutions from requiring special tracking codes for retail firearm sales.

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