Tennessee governor plans to sign bill that would let teachers carry guns in schools

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Thursday that he planned to sign a bill state legislators sent to his desk this week that would allow school staff members to carry concealed handguns on school grounds.

“What’s important to me is that we give districts tools and the option to use a tool that will keep their children safe in their schools,” Lee said at a news conference Thursday after he shared his plans to sign the legislation.

Under state law, Lee, a Republican, has the option to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

The Republican-controlled state House passed the measure Tuesday largely along party lines roughly a year after a shooter opened fire and killed six people at The Covenant School in Nashville. The state Senate, which is also controlled by the GOP, passed the measure this month.

Lee on Thursday highlighted the legislation’s requirements that faculty and staff members wishing to carry concealed handguns on school grounds complete a minimum of 40 hours of approved training specific to school policing every year. They also must obtain written authorization from law enforcement, he noted.

“There are folks across the state who disagree on the way forward,” Lee said Thursday, adding that he thought the legislation would allow school districts the opportunity to decide “at the local level what is best for the schools and the children in that district.”

But the measure drew criticism from Democrats like state Rep. Bo Mitchell, who referred to the Covenant shooting in remarks on the House floor.

“This is what we’re going to do. This is our reaction to teachers and children being murdered in a school. Our reaction is to throw more guns at it. What’s wrong with us?” Mitchell said.

Tennessee isn’t the only state to have approved legislation allowing teachers to carry guns. At least 26 states have laws permitting teachers or other school employees to possess guns on school grounds, with some exceptions, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun violence prevention group.

CORRECTION (April 25, 2025, 10:31 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when Mitchell made his remarks on the House floor. He made them Tuesday, not Wednesday.

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