NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Tuesday, the Senate Judicial Committee passed a bill to expand gun access in Tennessee in a 7-2 vote.
However, the bill (SB 1503) has been met with opposition through the entire process, and that continued Tuesday afternoon.
“How can we give children, 18-year-olds in my eyes are still kids, the ability to carry around deadly tools?” said Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis).
Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) stated, “You can be drafted at 18 years old.”
The move comes after a gun rights group pressed a lawsuit against Tennessee to allow 18-year-olds to carry firearms. Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti struck a deal to allow that. Now, the legislator is considering making it law.
“We’ve had many agencies come in here and talk about how 18-year-olds cannot carry, that we don’t want them to carry, it’s too dangerous,” said Rep. Chris Todd (R-Madison County). “All of a sudden, we have a court ruling saying you must do this, you have to treat 18-year-olds as an adult for everything, not just voting or serving in the military.”
Pushback came from Lamar, who pointed to the mindset of those who are 18.
“18-year-olds like myself were still in high school,” said Lamar. “And I just don’t think any high schooler is responsible to have a deadly weapon.”
According to the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD), there have been 15 guns found in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) so far this school year; Whites Creek High School and East High School account for the majority.
“We strongly oppose any policies that put more guns into schools and onto college campuses,” said Kathy Barnette with Mom’s Demand Action TN. “Schools should be safe places, and this creates a dangerous environment.”
On Monday, MNPS security found loaded handgun was found in a student’s backpack in a classroom at Hillsboro High School.
According to the school district, it was found during a scheduled K-9 search. Officials said in part that the handgun was, “immediately secured by school security and MNPD, and the school was placed on lockdown for approximately an hour while the police finished the search and concluded their initial investigation. Possession of a firearm on campus is a zero-tolerance offense and the student responsible will be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions and criminal charges.”
“Lowering the age could mean more gun homicide,” Barnette said.
Todd has continued to state, “It is a civil right and we are recognizing that in this bill.”
Hillsboro High School parent Shaundelle Brooks, whose son Akilah Dasilva was shot and killed at an Antioch Waffle House in 2018, said she has continued to take a stance against bills like SB 1503.
In a statement to News 2, she said:
“There is no way that increasing access to guns and putting them in the hands of younger people without permits and training will make us safer. What we need to do is work on things we could do outside of schools, outside of Waffle House, outside of church, to keep our children safe. The fact that guns are in school is a clear sign that we are failing our children. An 18-year-old is not allowed to legally drink, they need a license to drive, these bills are a disaster waiting to happen. They are not keeping our children safe. An 18-year-old walking around with a gun in public is one of the most terrifying things to watch. When will our government pass laws that will protect our children? And stop putting their lives in danger. Tennessee continues to pass laws that put our lives, our love ones lives at risk.”Shaundelle Brooks
According to the MNPD, gun(s) have been found in the following schools during this school year:
- Whites Creek High School (2 guns found in a vehicle)
- Kipp Charter School (1 gun)
- Glencliff High School (1 gun)
- Maplewood High (1 gun)
- Pearl Cohn High School (1 gun)
- Pearl Cohn High School (1 gun)
- East High School (2 guns in a book bag)
- Hunters Lane High School (1 gun)
- Hillwood High School (1 gun)
- Whites Creek High School (1 gun)
- East High School (1 gun)
- Maplewood High School (1 gun)
- Hillsboro High School (1 gun)