Group voices concerns about new law arming teachers, staff

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Grassroots organizations are sounding the alarm about Tennessee’s new law allowing teachers and other school employees to carry guns.

Gov. Bill Lee signed Senate Bill 1325 Friday and it took effect immediately.

More than 450 children have lost their lives to gun violence in the U.S. this year.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Cathy Barnett, legislative lead for the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action, predicted the new law will not enhance school safety. She noted the community worked to get an extreme-risk protection order passed after the Covenant School shooting but Republicans passed legislation this year blocking local governments from passing their own versions of such protection orders.

“Already, we have seen the largest counties say no, they are not going to implement it,” Barnett pointed out. “They trust their law enforcement, they trust that they have SROs already in their schools. They feel like the dangers are just too much.”

Barnett added even some smaller counties have said they will not implement it. Supporters of the new Tennessee law argued it will make schools safer.

Becky Hansen, a Covenant School parent who testified at a March 27 House hearing, cried when describing how her 5-year-old son’s teacher saved her students, and said giving her a gun would have just made the situation worse.

“Our teacher had the wherewithal, when she realized that what they thought they needed to do for a fire alarm was actually an active shooter, to turn it into a race, to not scare my 5-year-old,” Hansen recounted. “There is no way that my sweet teacher could have also held and properly ejected a weapon.”

Barnett said more than 70% of the parents and teachers her group surveyed do not want the law. She added in the past 11 years of testifying before committees, some lawmakers still fail to adequately understand gun violence prevention measures.

“They’re not listening to the research at all,” Barnett contended. “The research shows normally, on the whole, a mass shooter, most of the time has some affiliation with that school in some way. They don’t come because it’s a ‘gun-free zone,’ which the Republicans like to say.”

She pointed out concerns armed individuals may automatically resort to shooting, potentially harming people unintentionally and noted a student might also gain access to a gun if there are more firearms at schools.