NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Amid the chaos of the Covenant School mass shooting and subsequent expulsions of two Democratic lawmakers from the Tennessee House of Representatives, some business-as-usual continued on with the General Assembly.

Last week, a bill that would allow teachers to be armed in all public schools was pushed through another House committee, getting one step closer to passing the full House this week.

HB1202 by Cookeville Republican Rep. Ryan Williams, would authorize faculty or staff members to carry concealed handguns on school grounds under certain conditions.

According to the text of the bill, in order to carry, the employee must have a valid handgun carry permit, have authorization from their local law enforcement agency and complete 40 hours of “basic training in school policing” once they receive the authorization. They must also complete a minimum of 40 hours of POST commission-approved training annually in order to continue carrying the weapon on school grounds.

All training, weapon and ammunition costs must also be borne by the person wanting to carry, not the school or school district, the bill states.

Further, any employee who chooses to carry would be prohibited from carrying the firearm openly or “in any other manner in which the handgun is visible to ordinary observation.” Employees would also be barred from carrying their handgun at stadiums, gymnasiums, or auditoriums when school-sponsored events are in progress, in disciplinary meetings, tenure issue meetings, hospitals, clinics or offices where medical or mental health services are the primary services provided, or any location where state or federal law and posting provisions in state law prohibits the carrying of firearms on that property.

In addition to allowing employees to carry, the bill also allows third parties “assigned to a school in accordance with a memorandum of understanding” between law enforcement and the school district, such as hired security, to carry on school grounds.

The requirements for the “assigned” person to carry are similar to that of the school employee:

  • They must be authorized to carry a firearm pursuant to state law
  • They must have the joint written authorization from the director of schools and the school’s principal.
  • They must be a law enforcement office or have “prior service as a law enforcement officer.”
  • They must comply with all laws, rules and regulations of the POST commission.
  • And they must complete 40 hours of POST Commission-approved training annually

Additionally, the school district is required to notify the local law enforcement agency of their hiring an “assigned” person no later than 10 days after granting the authorization and provide the law enforcement agency with that person’s basic information, including name, address and contact information.

That “assigned person’s” information would not be subject to the Tennessee Open Records Act, according to the bill text.

Additionally, the bill would allow the school district to keep confidential “the name and any other information that might identify a faculty or staff member as a person who has elected to carry a concealed handgun” on school grounds.

If passed, the bill would also exempt all schools and school districts from any legal liability related to an employee’s use or failure to use said handgun on school grounds.

The bill passed the Education Administration committee on a 12-6-1 vote, with three Republicans joining all Democrats on the committee against the measure: Reps. Charlie Baum (R—Murfreesboro), John Gillespie (R—Memphis) and Mark White (R—Memphis).

Initially the bill was set for the House floor last week, but action on the measure has been deferred in the House until this Thursday’s floor session. No action will be taken on the measure in the Senate until January, following the chamber’s decision to halt all gun-related legislation until 2024 following the Covenant massacre.

Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.

What lawmakers had to say about: Abortion Ban Clarification | Marijuana Reform | Transgender Therapy and LGBTQ+ Rights | Dept. of Children’s Services | Education | Crime/Public Safety | More

You can also find daily coverage from the session here.