Citing Practicalities, Tennessee Lawmakers Reject Proposal To Let Teachers Carry Handguns | Nashville Public Radio

Citing Practicalities, Tennessee Lawmakers Reject Proposal To Let Teachers Carry Handguns

Apr 3, 2018

State lawmakers voted down a measure Tuesday that would've allowed teachers in schools across Tennessee to go armed.

The proposal had picked up steam after February's mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. But even some pro-gun rights legislators seemed to doubt it made much practical sense.

The House Education Administration and Planning Committee rejected House Bill 2208 on a voice vote, dealing the proposal a seemingly fatal blow as the General Assembly winds down for the year. The measure technically would not have been the first to authorize educators to have guns — a law already on the books allows educators in two rural counties to carry, if they can get police training — but backers of HB 2208 argued that the hurdles are so high, no teacher has ever qualified.

So they proposed letting outside groups such as the National Rifle Association or private instructors offer training to teachers who wanted to go armed. HB 2208 also would've opened the door to any district allowing armed teachers, as an alternative to having professional police officers in schools.

Gun rights groups often argue that an armed teacher could be a last line of defense in an active shooter situation. But opponents of the measure, counter that confronting heavily armed intruders is best left to law enforcement.

"Armed civilians are very ineffective responders in active shooting situations," said Linda McFayden-Ketchum of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "Not just in schools but in every situation. It's just extraordinary for someone with a gun to be able to stop an active shooter, so we thought it was ineffective and just dangerous."

That argument is what seemed to defeat the proposal. Several Tennessee lawmakers agreed it would be better if educators avoided taking on gunmen. They asked, who would shepherd students to safety if their teacher were trying to track down a shooter? And if that teacher were to find him, what good would it do? 

"A teacher with a handgun taking on an intruder with an AR-15 is bringing a slingshot to a bazooka festival," said state Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville.

Legislators said they'd rather continue with the state's current policy of allowing only trained police officers to carry guns in schools — and letting them be the ones to take on shooters.