In the name of “school safety,” legislators are again pushing legislation to arm educators.
Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) and Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), HB1380/SB1399 advanced last week in the K-12 subcommittee, in spite of several teachers and law enforcement officers speaking against it.
“Safety is on my mind every day. I don’t believe that allowing people with no additional training in school safety to carry guns would make my school safer,” said Jordan Randolph, a teacher in Murfreesboro. “I’m very disappointed that a proposal could exist that would force our schools and communities to deal with this.”
Schools are already high-stress environments, and allowing teachers to carry guns would further endanger students and school personnel. TEA has instead backed Gov. Bill Lee’s efforts to fund more school resource officers.
HB1380 is similar to a controversial measure passed in 2016 that allows full-time faculty and other employees of public colleges and universities in Tennessee to carry guns if they have gun carry permits and have notified campus police or local law enforcement.
“It’s very difficult to keep a weapon concealed. They need to be in retention holsters, which are large, and they need to be attached to a gun belt, which needs to be attached to a uniform and a badge,” Brink Fidler, owner and founder of Defend Systems and a former law enforcement officer, said during his testimony. “In 52 percent of school shootings that occurred between 2000 and 2013, the attack occurred in the hallway or classroom. Can you imagine, under stress, trying to deliver accurate shots with a small concealable firearm? Even police officers that are trained have a hard time doing that.”
Fidler said a carry permit alone would not increase school safety and security. Much more is needed, such as sending teachers to advanced training, more funding for security initiatives and other measures.
“It won’t take long for students to figure out which educators are carrying a gun,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “This would change the entire dynamic and environment inside our schools - and not for the better.”
Last year, a bill proposing to arm teachers met fierce opposition from Tennessee educators and eventually stalled in a legislative committee.
“Arm us with the resources we need to teach our students, not guns,” Brown said.