NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While many gun-related pieces of legislation are not moving forward in the Tennessee General Assembly’s special session on public safety, one firearm bill cleared its first hurdle in committee.
The bill, brought by Rep. Chris Todd (R—Madison County), would allow any law enforcement officer, whether on or off-duty, as well as any member of the armed forces—honorably discharged or not—and anyone with an enhanced handgun carry permit to carry on school grounds or any place used by a school where students would be present.
During discussion in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, Todd and others argued the bill would help keep schools safer in the event of an emergency before first responders arrive on the scene, but critics and even the Tennessee Department of Safety pushed back, saying it would cause more harm than good.
Elizabeth Stroecker, with the Department of Safety, said the bill would “create a situation where you would have law enforcement potentially coming in not knowing who could be a bad guy or a good guy when someone has a firearm and it’s not clear that they may be a first responder.”
Todd took issue with Stroecker’s claims, arguing whether the department trusted the “trained and permitted individuals your own department has provided permits for.”
“We absolutely trust the people that we permit, but they are not trained or permitted to carry in a school and protect a school and be able to respond to a situation in a school. There is a very big difference in the eight-hour course they take to get the enhanced permit,” Stroecker said.
Todd became even angrier, snapping at Stroecker.
“We literally have administrators in schools and law enforcement that are about to retire or are already retired that are begging us for this legislation, so that they can protect the children that are around them every single day, and you sit here as a representative of our governor that is preventing that!” Todd said.
He was quieted by the committee chairman Rep. Lowell Russell (R—Vonore) before the vote, which saw the bill approved by voice vote. It now moves onto the full Civil Justice Committee.
Other bills, many by Democrats, were killed in multiple committees today by House members. On the Senate side, one committee killed 52 of 55 bills that were on the agenda. The three that survived were priority bills for Speaker Cameron Sexton (R—Crossville).
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