24 Apr 2024

Tennessee lawmakers pass bill allowing teachers to carry guns in schools

2:36 pm on 24 April 2024
US President Joe Biden speaks with  Tennessee Democrat expelled from the Tennessee state legislature over gun control protest Justin Pearson (R) during a meeting to discuss efforts to ban assault weapons in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 24, 2023. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

Democrat Justin Pearson, seen here discussing gun control with US President Joe Biden, said the move in his state was "an awful day for Tennessee". Photo: AFP

Tennessee lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow the state's teachers to carry concealed handguns at school, as protesters yelled their opposition from the gallery.

The bill was approved in a 68-28 vote in the Republican-dominated Tennessee House. The state's Senate passed the bill earlier this month.

Tennessee has seen heated debate over gun laws since last year's shooting at a Nashville school left three children and three adult staffers dead. Some of the Democrats in the House helped lead protests inside the capitol, leading to their brief expulsion from the body last year.

"This is an awful day for Tennessee, our kids, our teachers, and communities," state Representative Justin Pearson, a Democrat who was booted from the House last year before being voted back in, wrote on social media. "Instead of protecting kids, they've protected guns AGAIN!"

Republicans and other conservatives have often pushed for teachers to be armed in response to the numerous school shootings that have taken place in the US in the past 25 years.

Proponents of the measures argue that armed teachers deter would-be school shooters. Detractors say guns in school will likely only lead to tragic accidental shootings.

About half of all states in the US allow teachers or other school employees to carry firearms on school grounds, according to the Giffords Law Centre, a gun safety group.

Under the Tennessee bill, any person wanting to carry a concealed handgun in a school would have to complete at least 40 hours of training in school policing. The cost of the training - along with the firearm - is to be paid by the individual.

The identity of the teacher or staffer who is carrying a gun would not be public, according to the bill. School leaders must give approval for the person to carry a gun, and local law enforcement leaders must be informed of the carrier's identity.

- Reuters

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