A new bill up for discussion in the state legislature would give teachers and school districts the option of allowing guns in schools.
Currently, only two Tennessee counties allow teachers and staff at schools to carry guns. School employees in Wayne and Pickett Counties can have guns if they have a permit and complete 40 hours of training.
Even though the law was passed two years ago, currently no teachers in those counties carry guns because law enforcement officers weren’t willing to provide the necessary training.
Sen. Joey Hensley’s bill originally started in an effort to clarify where teachers could get the required training. Yet, after discussion with the house sponsor, Rep. David Byrd, they decided to expand the bill to include school employees in all counties.
“We’ve heard from a lot of teachers across the state, and parents who are afraid for students,” said Sen. Hensley, a Republican from Hohenwald. “A lot of teachers said they would carry if they could.”
Sen. Hensley said there would be several stipulations. First, the local director of schools would have to sign off on the idea, and the local school board would have to approve the policy. Every school district has the choice of participating. School employees who wanted to carry a gun on school property must complete an initial 40 hours of training and an additional 16 hours of training per year, and have the proper permit. Only one employee per 75 students would be allowed to have a gun, and local law enforcement would have a list of the people who are certified to have a gun.
Sen. Hensley said employees should have the option to carry, and this bill will allow that. He believed having trained employees with guns in schools would help protect students in the case of a school shooting.
“We feel like there are individuals out there who want to do the extra training so they can be there to protect themselves and their students,” said Sen. Hensley.
Sen. Hensley said he expected the bill would be met with some opposition, but felt it started an important discussion on school safety.
“It’s just an option,” he said. “If a school system chooses not to do it. That’s their option.”
The bill will be discussed in the Civil Justice Subcommittee February 28. It is expected to come up in the Senate the following week.