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Tennessee legislators pass bill that would let teachers carry guns in schools

The bill's passage in the Republican-led Legislature comes a year after a shooter opened fire and killed six people at a Christian school in Nashville.
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Lawmakers in Tennessee passed a measure Tuesday that would allow school staff to carry concealed handguns on school grounds, sending the bill to the governor a year after a shooter opened fire and killed six people at a Nashville school.

The Tennessee House cleared the legislation in a 68-28 vote. Four Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure. The state Senate, which is also controlled by the GOP, passed the measure earlier this month.

Republican state Rep. Ryan Williams on Tuesday said the bill would bolster school safety.

"I believe that this is a method by which we can do that, because what you're doing is you're creating a deterrent," he said on the House floor.

Under the legislation, faculty and staff members who wish to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds would need to complete a minimum of 40 hours of approved training specific to school policing each year.

Protesters could be heard in the gallery on Tuesday chanting, “Blood on your hands,” during the floor proceedings.

People protest bill allowing armed teachers in Tennessee.
Gun reform activists protest to adopt Senate Bill, which would authorize teachers, principals, and school personnel to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds, in Nashville, Tenn., on April 23, 2024. Seth Herald / Reuters

Democratic state Rep. Bo Mitchell pushed back on the measure, referring to last year's Covenant School shooting in Nashville when three children and three adults were killed.

"This is what we’re going to do. This is our reaction to teachers and children being murdered in a school. Our reaction is to throw more guns at it. What’s wrong with us?" Mitchell said on the House floor.

State Sen. Paul Bailey, a Republican who sponsored the bill in the upper chamber, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Bill Lee did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he planned to sign the measure. He can either sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature. Lee has not vetoed any legislation as governor.

Tennessee isn’t the only state to approve legislation allowing teachers to carry guns. According to the Giffords Law Center, a gun violence prevention group, at least 26 states have laws permitting teachers or other school employees to possess guns on school grounds, with some exceptions.