Tennessee passes bill to allow teachers to carry concealed guns despite protests

<span>Protesters at the House gallery at the Tennessee state capitol building in Nashville on Tuesday.</span><span>Photograph: Seth Herald/Reuters</span>
Protesters at the House gallery at the Tennessee state capitol building in Nashville on Tuesday.Photograph: Seth Herald/Reuters

Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow teachers to carry concealed handguns in schools despite protests at the state capitol.

House Republicans passed the bill, one of the biggest gun moves since a mass shooting in a Nashville Christian school left three children and three adults dead last year.

The bill is headed to Bill Lee, Tennessee’s governor, who is expected to sign it. The law would allow teachers, principals and faculty or staff of a school to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds if they have a permit and complete an annual training.

Tennessee teachers and parents heavily criticized the proposal, with dozens flooding the state capitol and chanting “Blood on your hands” on Tuesday. Cameron Sexton, Tennessee’s house speaker, ordered state troopers to remove the protesters.

House Democrats were also vocal about their opposition to the bill.

“When bullies and cowards have power, they abuse it,” said Justin J Pearson, a Memphis representative, in a tweet. “These are dangerous laws and scary times in TN.”

The state proposal is in response to the massacre on 27 March 2023, when a former student killed six people with two “assault-style” weapons and a handgun after elaborately planning the shooting by drawing a detailed map and surveilling the building.

Tennessee joins the slew of states in greenlighting legislation allowing teachers to carry a gun or keep one in their classroom. Last week Kim Reynolds, Iowa’s governor, signed a bill that allows teachers and other school employees to get a new professional permit to carry guns on school grounds. The law also gives school districts and armed employees qualified immunity for the use of reasonable force.

The majority of US teachers think arming themselves with handguns would make schools less safe, according to a 2023 survey by the non-partisan Rand Corporation. More than half, 54%, thought schools would be made less safe if teachers could carry, and 26% said they did not think it would make a difference in school safety.

There have been at least 12 shooting incidents on school campuses resulting in injury or death so far in 2024, according to a tracker by Education Week.