Over teacher, parent protests, Tennessee legislature orders guns into schools
A roadside memorial stands near the Covenant School on the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting, March 27, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. On Tuesday, April 23, the Republican-led legislature in Tennessee gave final approval to legislation that would allow some public school teachers to carry concealed guns into the classroom, a year after the deadly school shooting in the state's capital city stirred impassioned debate about the best ways to curb such violence. | George Walker IV/AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Over teacher and parent protests—so loud and passionate they were ejected from the House visitors’ gallery—the right-wing Republican majority in both houses of the Tennessee legislature is allowing school districts statewide to arm teachers and staff with guns.

The legislation, approved by veto-proof majorities in the most-gerrymandered legislature in the U.S., passed on April 23, just after the first anniversary of the massacre of three students and three adults at the Covenant School, a Christian private elementary school just outside the state capital of Nashville.

The legislation, which Republican Gov. Bill Lee planned to sign, would let teachers and school staffers carry concealed loaded handguns on school grounds. Only police, principals and school district administrators would know who’s armed.

“If the teacher had left the room to confront the shooter, my children would be dead,” Covenant parent Beth Gebhard, a leader of the protesting parents, told MSNBC. “We trust our legislators but what I saw was a confederacy of dunces passing legislation that is appalling and dangerous.”

Cradling her eight-month-old baby in her left arm and a microphone in her right hand, State Sen. Landon Lamar, D-Memphis, declared during debate, “The public school teachers do not want this bill. They’re not asking you for this,” a video on twitter/X showed.

“I’m mad not because I don’t like you all individually,” Lamar told the Republican majority, “but because this puts my child at risk. This puts the children of all the mothers who just got put out” of the state capitol building “at risk. Look at that gallery. They’re asking you not to do this. Put partisan politics aside; I ask you this all the time. This bill is dangerous. Don’t do it.”

The GOP-enacted bill “is rooted in the idea that schools would be safer if educators—whom the right has a nasty habit of demonizing—carried firearms. The solution to children getting shot in schools, in other words, is to put more guns in schools,” MSNBC commentator Steve Bennet said.

To carry a concealed handgun, a teacher or a staffer would have to undergo a background check, get a pistol permit, and 40 hours of training, the legislation, backed by the gun lobby, says.

Teachers and parents ringed the state capitol building in Nashville and jammed the galleries in both legislative chambers to protest the measure. Like national teachers’ unions—the AFT and the National Education Association—they declared guns have no place in schools.

So did the heavily outnumbered Democrats, including two whom the GOP-run House evicted from their seats last year for leading an anti-gun protest within the House chamber. Both were re-elected to their vacant seats.  One of them, State Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, declared in this debate, “My Republican colleagues continue to hold our state hostage, hold our state at gunpoint to appeal to their donors in the gun industry. It is morally insane.”

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.