Tennessee lawmakers pass bill allowing teachers to carry guns at school 1 year after deadly Nashville shooting

by Tommy Grant

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Republican lawmakers in Tennessee banded together to advance a proposal Tuesday that would allow some teachers to carry handguns in public schools.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 26-5 to pass Senate Bill 1325, which allows a teacher or faculty member that meets certain requirements to possess and carry a handgun or firearm on school grounds.

In order to carry a handgun, they must have a handgun carry permit, have written authorization from both the school’s principal and local law enforcement and undergo 40 hours of handgun training. The worker must also not be prohibited from purchasing, possessing, and carrying a handgun under the laws of Tennessee or federal law as determined by a background check.

The bill was passed after a deadly shooting last year at The Covenant School, a private Christian elementary school in Nashville. The shooting left three children and three adults dead.


The bill does not specifically require teachers to be armed or to use their weapons in such an active-shooter situation. It also bars the school from disclosing which of its employees are carrying guns beyond school administrators and police. This information would also be withheld from parents of students and other teachers.

Before its passage, the bill’s proponents argued teachers and faculty could serve as a more immediate response force to a shooting situation. They said it could be particularly helpful in rural counties with limited law enforcement resources.

“It’s time that we look at the facts of the bill, that we are not trying to shoot a student, but protect a student from an active shooter whose sole purpose is to get into that school and kill people,” Republican Sen. Ken Yager said.

The proposal is now ready for a House floor vote.


During debate on the bill, critics protested from the Senate galleries with chants and screams. They shouted: “Vote them out;” “No more silence, end gun violence;” and “Kill the bill, not the kids.”

Many of the protesters were eventually ordered to leave.

“This bill is dangerous and teachers don’t want it. Nobody wants it,” Democratic state Sen. London Lamar argued. 

The contentious bill comes approximately a year after a deadly shooting last March at The Covenant School. The shooter, who was killed at the scene by police, killed three children and three adults during the rampage.

Police vehicles, tape

The bill also comes amid a larger push from Tennessee Republicans to loosen gun laws, including signing off on permitless carry for handguns in 2021.


The push includes an effort to expand the state’s permitless carry law to include long guns.

The original law allowed residents 21 and older to carry handguns in public without a permit. Two years later, Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti then allowed 18- to 20-year-olds to carry handguns publicly.

The Covenant School

Lawmakers also approved a bill that would allow private schools with pre-kindergarten classes to have guns on campus. The governor has not yet signed it into law.

Separately, Senate Republicans on Tuesday advanced an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution’s “right to keep, bear, and wear arms” that would broaden the right beyond defense. If approved, that wouldn’t be on the ballot until 2026.


Last year, Tennessee Republicans passed a law bolstering protections against lawsuits involving gun and ammunition dealers, manufacturers and sellers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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