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Angry protests as Tennessee Republicans pass law allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons

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Teachers in Tennessee could soon carry concealed handguns in the classroom after Republican senators passed a bill amid angry protests.

The legislation's passage comes weeks after the first anniversary of the mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, which left six students and staff members dead.

Accordingly, around 200 supporters of gun reform disrupted the proceedings on Tuesday when they expressed their opposition to the bill on the Senate floor The Tennesseansome were eventually removed from the room.

They were angered by plans that would allow teachers and other school staff to carry guns, with the legislation also including a ban on everyone else carrying firearms on school grounds.

Teachers wouldn't have to disclose whether they carry a weapon, the bill says – prompting shouts of “Shame on you!” from the stands.

The bill still needs to be passed in the House of Representatives of the Tennessee General Assembly, and a date for its filing has not yet been set.

If the new rules take effect, Tennessee would join more than 30 states that allow school staff or teachers to carry a firearm, something gun safety groups have repeatedly opposed.

Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action argue that arming teachers puts children at greater risk.

“We should listen to law enforcement, teachers, school leaders and others in Tennessee who have spoken out against arming teachers. And most importantly, we should listen to Tennesseans who are worried about their children not coming home from school every day,” said Linda McFadyen-Ketchum, a volunteer with the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action, in a press release.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to send our children to school, but extremist lawmakers are determined to expand the gun lobby’s “guns everywhere” agenda and put our children at risk. The legislature should reject this bill immediately.”

After the school shooting, Gov. Bill Lee introduced legislation to tighten background checks for gun purchases. However, Everytown argues that he also pushed for more firearms to be placed in schools in response to the school shooting.

The campaign group also argues that “the likelihood of an armed teacher shooting a bystander student or being shot by responding law enforcement is much greater than being an effective solution to an active shooter in a school.”

A Covenant School mother appeared to share a similar view at Tuesday's Senate meeting, saying teachers who did their jobs and received active shooter training saved her children from the gunman, who was armed with an assault rifle.

“A handgun doesn’t help,” Beth Gebhard said The Tennessean. “If what happened on March 27 had happened the way a teacher armed with a gun tried to take out the perpetrator, my children would probably be dead.”

Those teachers who wish to carry a firearm must obtain an enhanced permit to carry handguns and complete annual training with law enforcement.

House Democrats expressed concern about this.

“We send people to 40 hours of training … to learn how to handle a combat situation that is difficult for police officers to handle,” said Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville.

Students and student teachers have also expressed their concerns.

“As a student aspiring to become a teacher, I know that managing a classroom is difficult enough without adding a deadly weapon to the mix,” Bobbi Sloan, volunteer director of Vanderbilt Students Demand Action, said in a news release.

“Every weapon placed in a classroom creates a new opportunity for students to become another statistic. That's not the solution. In fact, responding to our calls for change with a bill that will only endanger us further is absolutely absurd.”

Education week reports that there have been ten school shootings in 2024 alone, including 192 since 2018, six of them in states that allow school staff to carry a firearm.