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Tennessee House set to discuss conceal carry for school employees

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(The Center Square) – A bill that would allow qualified employees to concealed carry firearms in a school is scheduled to be discussed by the Tennessee House on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1325 includes a list of requirements before an employee – which includes teachers, administrators and other staff – is approved for concealed carry.

The identity of those employees who are approved for open carry will remain confidential except for the principal and superintendent that must approve the measure. The chief of the local law enforcement department would also have to approve the permit, which would only be granted to those who have completed background checks, have a concealed carry permit, complete a psychological evaluation and have completed 40 hours of training in school policing including hands-on training before being granted permission.

“There has been a lot of misinformation about this legislation,” said Senate sponsor Paul Bailey, R-Sparta. “This bill does not require any teacher in this state to carry a gun while working. … It simply gives a faculty or staff member the option.”

Three amendments proposed by Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville, were tabled that would have put in added training on de-escalation techniques, added hazard pay eligibility for faculty and limited eligibility for the permits to full-time accredited staff.

“We are bringing these guns into the classroom,” Oliver said. “People should not be subjected to this type of distress. They should not have to be teaching under this duress.”

A school principal, director or schools or county law enforcement leader can opt a school out of eligibility for the school concealed carry bill.

Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, asked if parents would be told if their child’s teacher would be carrying a gun and Bailey said the information would be kept confidential.

“Not allowing parents to be notified if their child is in a room where a handgun, a firearm, is present to me invalidates every single discussion we’ve had about parental choice in this body.”

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, had the Senate gallery cleared after a vocal gallery response to Akbari’s comments. The gallery dismissal came after several warnings from McNally regarding gallery outbursts.

McNally commented to one dismissed gallery member he believed he was threatened when “you’re next” was shouted at him, asking them “What do you mean, I’m next? Did you threaten me?”

The bill passed the Senate 26-5 after an extended break while the gallery was removed.

Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis, responded saying she feels the bill puts students at risk and “it’s going to cause more school shootings.” Lamar said she believes the state should first see the impact of legislation to put school resource officers in more school, rather than having those who are not law enforcement carrying weapons in a school.