Public health crisis or constitutional right? Lawmakers address guns from different angles with new bills

Posted at 8:09 PM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 23:32:41-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — We seem to be poised for another year on Tennessee's Capitol Hill with the topic of guns once again in the crosshairs.

Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton signaled Tuesday there could be new legislation that would expand Tennessee into a true constitutional carry state, but he didn't have additional details to share just yet.

"I voted for the constitutional carry aspect last time; I think it’s somebody’s right to arm themselves," said Speaker Sexton.

But Sexton did answer questions on another Republican-filed bill involving guns in Tennessee classrooms.

House Bill 41 would allow a Director of Schools in any Tennessee county to deputize certain teachers or school employees to carry firearms in the building.

"I think law enforcement is warming up to the idea. Not all teachers — but maybe a few of the teachers might should be armed to help them in certain situations," said Speaker Sexton. "But they have to go through certain training and other requirements, so we’ll have to see what that legislation — if that has that in it."

"It’s dangerous and it puts our children at even more risk of being victims of gun violence," said Sen. London Lamar, a Democrat from Memphis.

Lamar, who also serves as the Democratic Senate Caucus Chair, is taking aim at gun violence in a very different way. She's introducing Senate Bill 17 as a way to help families navigate gun violence by, first, classifying it as a public health crisis.

"There are a number of ways we can be using state resources to reduce gun violence, and my bill is creating a non-cost way to do that," said Sen. Lamar. "We want to see conflict resolution skills within our schools by having the Department of Education create a program. And we want to do on-site interventions. Most times, after gun violence happens, families are in an uproar at the hospital, so we want to have people on site, ready to mitigate these issues."

Two parties, two very different ways to pull the trigger on keeping Tennesseans safe.

The deadline to file legislation is at the end of January, so we could see several more pieces of legislation filed until then.

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