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Two Teacher Gun Bills Pass Another Hurdle

Posted at 10:22 PM, Apr 06, 2016

Tennessee schools have come one step closer to allowing guns on campus. Two bills passed the House Education Administration and Planning committee Wednesday that targeted K-through-12 schools and public universities.

The first bill was aimed at smaller, "distressed" districts. The Dept. of Education says Wayne and Pickett County do not have any school resource officers. Bill sponsor David Byrd (R, Waynesboro) says his home district in Wayne County cannot afford them.

The bill would allow those districts to arm teacher volunteers. But even pro-gun lawmakers seemed concerned about what they called the bill's unanswered questions. The main issues raised were about liability, classroom distractions and training.

The bill only requires 40 hours of training, per an amendment, although resource officers go through more than 500 hours of training, according to the Tennessee Sheriff's Association.

"You make a mistake, especially as a teacher in this situation I guarant-darn-tee it you're gonna be sued and your life is going to be over," said Rep. Rick Womick (R, Rockvale) who is a former teacher and federal law enforcement officer.

Despite mostly negative comments during discussion, the bill ended up passing 7-to-5 and moving to the Finance Ways and Means committee.

Public University employees are also one step closer to carrying concealed weapons with a carry permit on campus.

While UT and the Tennessee Board of Regents spoke against the bill and in favor of an amendment to allow each campus to opt-out, the NRA spoke in favor of the bill, urging lawmakers to vote down the amendment. A similar bill passed by the committee last week included an opt-out option for private universities.

"To be honest I don't think many of the public institutions would opt in to do this and we think it essentially negates the purpose of this bill," said NRA State Liason Erin Luper.

The opt-out amendment failed with a 6-6 vote. The overall bill passed and will be referred to the Finance Ways and Means Committee.