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 that state legislators sent to his desk this week that would allow school staff 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 during a news conference Thursday after sharing his plans to sign the legislation. 

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

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

The governor 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 each year. They also must obtain written authorization from law enforcement, the governor noted.

“There are folks across the state who disagree on the way forward,” Lee said on 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 during remarks on the House floor on Wednesday.

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

Tennessee isn’t the only state to approve 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.

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