A new Tennessee bill seeks to improve school safety by authorizing a school staff or faculty member to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds.
Representative Ryan Williams said the bill was prepared and filed over the summer. He said the bill had passed through multiple committees before the shooting at Covenant School on Monday.
Williams said staffers would need to meet certain conditions. Those would include 40 hours of annual training with local law enforcement, an annual background check, and an annual mental evaluation.
“And only in an instance where someone wished to conceal carry and the director schools approved and they met all of these requirements for training and background checks,” Williams said. “Similar to what people would call background checks for the acquisition of a firearm, would be a requirement.”
Williams said this bill addresses a different issue than whether or not teachers should be armed and whether or not there should be stricter gun laws.
“I think there are things we can do as it relates to gun laws to make the acquisition of a gun safer in our communities,” Williams said. “This bill, I have worked on with local and state law enforcement. What’s different about this bill though is there are lots of controls as it relates to the bill and how someone might gain the permission or the ability to carry a concealed weapon in their school.”
Williams said the bill was modeled after suggestions from a committee that came together in response to the 2018 Parkland school shooting. He said one suggestion would be to create another level of security in schools called a “peace officer” who would also be a faculty member or administrator.
“I’ve heard from many of my colleagues across the state who, unlike Putnam County, don’t have the financial ability to put an SRO in every school like we do,” Williams said. “And in our instance, we have schools, particularly Cookeville High School with over 2,500 students and more than 100 entrances to the door. And in collaboration with local law enforcement who are trained in active shooter training and so would this person be, I think this is something we should consider.”
Williams said the bill goes before the education committee next week. He said there will be lots of discussion in the house and the senate about whether this method will be acceptable for statewide application for school safety.
“When we look at the events of this week and the other events across the nation, it’s our job to have a discussion about all of the opportunities we have to keep our students and schools safer,” Williams said. “And I hope to have that discussion. I don’t know where the bill will fall out as it relates to the support of the colleagues, but I do know that I as a parent of students in Putnam County Schools want to do everything within my power to help keep our students, administrators, and teachers safe.”