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Tennessee Lawmakers Go All-in on Guns and Arming Teachers

After last year’s Covenant School shooting, Democrats pushed for more gun control – they’ll get more guns, instead.

Tennessee lawmakers passed  a bill on Tuesday, April 23, that will let teachers carry firearms to school. After the Covenant School shooting of last year, Democrats and anti-gun advocates called – as they generally do after such tragedies – for stricter gun control. The GOP-controlled legislature, however, delivered the opposite, and overwhelmingly so. The bill to arm teachers passed the Tennessee Senate 26-5 and the House 68-28, and numerous attempts by Democrats to amend it failed.

Arming Teachers, and More

Per the new legislation, teachers and other members of school staff who wish to carry concealed on campus must have an enhanced carry permit, get written authorization from the school’s principal and local law enforcement, and undergo both an FBI background check and 40 hours minimum of handgun training.

Additional bills moving through the legislature this year would change school fire alarm protocols to take into account shootings, create a pilot program to give teachers wearable alarms, increase safety training for school bus drivers, and digitize school maps so first responders can more rapidly access school layouts to minimize confusion and response time. Another would require “age-appropriate” gun safety training for students – an idea that may seem more outlandish to residents of urban areas than it really is in rural schools, some of which to this day maintain shooting teams and offer hunter education courses including firearm safety components.

The bill just passed by the General Assembly is touted as 100% permissive, as schools will neither be forbidden nor required to allow armed staff. It does not, however, allow any district to opt out entirely, forcing an individual review of every application, even if the end result is that all applications are denied.

It was also veto-proof thanks to the overwhelming majority who voted for it and the fact that, in Tennessee, all that is required to overturn a veto is a majority of those elected to both houses of the legislature. Republican Governor Bill Lee, who has yet to veto any bill, made it clear Thursday that he wouldn’t start now. “I think it provides a valuable option to public schools who want to participate,” Lee said.

Democrats Cry Hypocrisy – How Ironic

Some Democrats are calling this bill hypocritical and anti-parent choice. “I’ve heard so many times about parental consent, that it’s a parent’s responsibility to raise their child,” said Tennessee state Rep. Justin Pearson, who called the bill “absolutely insane” Tuesday. “I also think it’s a parent’s job to know if their child is being put at risk by having someone in the classroom with a firearm that another child could find, that could be discharged and actually harm them or other kids.”

GettyImages-1243599296 (1) classroom

(Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

The bill doesn’t allow anyone but the school’s administration and law enforcement to be informed which teachers are – or may be – carrying. This secrecy clause seems to some to run counter to the idea of parental rights so often touted by Republicans. But so long as parents are aware that teachers could be armed, then they are still informed. As for choice, parents do have the choice to send their children to public schools, private schools, or to homeschool. While finding an alternative option may not be easy or even feasible for many, a choice it remains. Allowing teachers to be armed in public schools, however, is no more or less a violation of parental rights than requiring transgender sex education or teaching critical race theory would be.

Identifying specific armed teachers, however, does not give parents any more real choice in whether their children are in the presence of armed staff, though it would negate much of the tactical advantage in a shooting. Defense of self and others is reactionary by nature – the aggressor always acts first and, often, has the benefit of the element of surprise. This is the same for any violent attack, whether in school or out. Having the ability to shoot back when being shot at beats just sitting around waiting to be shot any day – but openly carrying a gun, or, in the case of armed teachers, having the school’s administration announce who’s armed, paints a target on the defender’s back. Democrats talk a lot about common sense when it comes to gun laws. Here’s some actual common sense for you: If school shooters know which staff members are armed, they know what classrooms to avoid in order to carry out their killing sprees unmolested – or, worse, they know who to kill first.

Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Despite the overwhelming majority of votes the bill received in the legislature, it was far from bipartisan or universally accepted. Republicans control the state Senate 27-6 and the House 75-24. While not exactly matching the General Assembly’s demographics, the 26-5 and 68-28 votes were mostly party line. Democrats opposed the bill as best they could and attempted multiple times to amend it, but the Republican majority was too strong to overcome.

Protesters were also present, chanting, “blood on your hands” and holding signs with messages like “SHAME” and “1 Kid > All the guns.”

This soon-to-be law allowing armed teachers isn’t the only blow to Democrats and the anti-gun left. Earlier in the month, Democrat-sponsored bills to broaden background checks and require so-called safe storage failed, being dismissed without discussion. Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti recently expanded the 2021 permitless carry law to apply to 18- to 20-year-olds, and the next step seems to be extending it to include long guns, as well. In short, for all that Democrats hoped to use the tragedy of school shootings to flip the Volunteer State on gun control, their efforts clearly backfired.

Read More From James Fite

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