NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN)— State Sen. Paul Bailey (R—Sparta) said if he’s able to do so, he’ll introduce a bill during the summer legislative session to allow teachers and school staff to carry a firearm on school grounds.
However, since Gov. Bill Lee hasn’t issued an official call for a special session, Bailey said he doesn’t know if his bill can be filed at that time.
“Until we have that information and official call, I cannot speculate on whether it would be appropriate to file such a bill in special session,’ Bailey wrote in a statement to News 2.
Bailey’s bill would require any school staff member carrying a concealed weapon to undergo 40 hours of law enforcement training, a mental health evaluation, and a background check by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).
“The option to pursue this path could be especially useful in rural districts which don’t have the resources to heavily invest in school security. It could also deter potential school shooters if they know multiple people in the building might be armed,” he said.
If he isn’t able to bring it up during the special session, Bailey said he will reintroduce it next year.
Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions co-founder Josh Horwitz said arming teachers could actually make students less safe.
“Arming teachers is a bad idea. We need to let teachers teach, and we need the law enforcement professionals to do what they do,” Horwitz said. “All the evidence we know is that we make it easier for public carry of weapons, we see violence increase, and teachers really should be focused on educating our children.”
“I personally believe the General Assembly does not currently possess the necessary information to address the purported reason for a special session,” he wrote.
State Rep. Jody Barrett (R—Dickson) wrote a letter to Lee this week questioning the need for a special session. He also wondered if it would be safe for lawmakers to gather to discuss gun reform given the protests at the State Capitol in the final days of the regular session.
“It is ironic that you intend to call a special session on public safety that will actually put public safety at risk in downtown Nashville,” Barrett wrote.
According to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, no injuries were reported and no arrests were made during the first protests at the State Capitol following the Covenant shooting.
Barrett also claimed that his constituents do not support the governor’s proposed legislation to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, sometimes referred to as an order of protection law.
“What is abundantly clear is that the vast majority of law-abiding, God-fearing Tennesseans DO NOT APPROVE of any variation of a red flag law, no matter what misleading moniker or marketing campaign that you might try to disguise it with,” he wrote.
According to a Vanderbilt Child Health Poll, 35.9% of Tennessee parents think schools would be safer if teachers were armed.
In comparison, 63.6% think schools would be safer if families or law enforcement can temporarily restrict a person’s access to a gun through a civil court order, which is similar to what Lee is proposing and what Barrett and Bailey said they won’t support.