Tennessee House Passes Bill Allowing Teachers to Carry Guns, Causing Chaos and Protests

Tennessee House passes controversial bill allowing some teachers to carry concealed guns in schools, sparking protests and political divisions over gun control.

Hadeel Hashem
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Tennessee House Passes Bill Allowing Teachers to Carry Guns, Causing Chaos and Protests

Tennessee House Passes Bill Allowing Teachers to Carry Guns, Causing Chaos and Protests

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a controversial bill on Tuesday that would allow some teachers and staff to carry concealed handguns on public school grounds. The measure, which passed by a vote of 68-28, now goes to Republican Governor Bill Lee for consideration. If signed into law, it would be the biggest expansion of gun access in the state since last year's deadly shooting at the Covenant School, a private elementary school in Nashville.

The passage of the bill led to chaos in the state Capitol building, with protesters shouting "Blood on your hands!" and brandishing signs. Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton kicked out at least one protester for being too disruptive. Democratic state representatives, who are a minority in the deep red state, protested the measure. "This is morally insane in light of the Covenant tragedy," said Rep. Bo Mitchell, expressing outrage over the bill.

The bill presents a distinctly different response to the Covenant School shooting compared to Governor Lee's previous proposal to keep guns away from people deemed a danger to themselves or others. Republican legislators quickly cast aside his push and instead backed the measure to arm teachers. "This bill creates a deterrent," argued the bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Ryan Williams.

Democrats strongly opposed the bill, with Rep. Justin Jones, who was previously expelled and then reinstated, joining a "die-in" protest against the measure. Jones called it "morally insane" and accused his Republican colleagues of holding the state "hostage" to appeal to gun industry donors. The chaos after the vote led to accusations of House rule violations, with only Rep. Jones being reprimanded for recording on his phone.

Why this matters: The passage of this bill in Tennessee highlights the ongoing national debate over gun control measures and school safety in the wake of tragic mass shootings. It also underscores the deep political divisions on the issue, with Republican-led states often pushing for expanded gun rights while Democrats advocate for stricter regulations.

Under the bill, school employees would be required to have a handgun carry permit, undergo 40 hours of training, and get written authorization from the principal and local law enforcement to carry a gun at school. However, it remains unclear if any school districts would take advantage of the law if it is signed by the governor. The Metro Nashville Public Schools spokesperson stated that the district believes it is best and safest for only approved active-duty law enforcement to carry weapons on campus.

Key Takeaways

  • Tennessee House passed bill allowing some teachers to carry concealed guns.
  • Bill sparked chaos in state Capitol, with protesters and Democratic opposition.
  • Bill presents different response to Covenant School shooting than Gov. Lee's proposal.
  • Bill requires 40-hour training, principal/police approval for armed teachers.
  • Passage highlights national debate on gun control and school safety measures.