Tennessee Governor Signs Law Allowing Teachers To Be Armed On Campus
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee speaks during a press conference at Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, on February 4, 2024. (Photo by SERGIO FLORES / AFP)
SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee signed legislation on Friday allowing teachers and school staff in the state to carry concealed handguns on school property.

The legislation, aimed at improving school safety, comes about a year after a mass shooting that killed three children and three adults at The Covenant School in Nashville. The governor announced his support for the legislation at a press conference the day before signing it.

“I think we need to be really clear about what this does – districts have the right to choose,” Lee said, according to WSMV. “What’s important to me is that we give districts tools and the option to use the tool that will keep their children safe in their schools.”

The law creates a process of approvals and training for educators and other school staff to qualify to conceal carry a gun on campus.

The school superintendent, principal, and chief of local law enforcement must all approve the concealed carry applicant. The applicant must also pass a background check, obtain an enhanced carry permit, undergo a psychological exam, and complete 80 hours of training annually at their own expense to keep carrying the handgun on campus, according to CNN.

The law also prohibits guns from being carried in stadiums, gymnasiums, and auditoriums while games or performances are taking place, or during meetings over tenure or disciplinary actions.

The program is opt-in, so schools do not necessarily have to arm staff to comply with the law. School leadership could block any educators from concealed carrying on school property.

It is unclear how widely the new tool will be adopted. Some schools have made public statements since the legislation was signed into law announcing an intent not to participate. Many schools already have armed school resource officers on campus.


“Our teachers and principals carry tremendous responsibilities in teaching and supporting our students in the classroom,” Sumner County Schools Director Scott Langford said in a statement, according to The Tennessean. “Our teachers and principals already play a critical role in school safety by ensuring that our safety procedures are followed in our school buildings daily. We do not want to add one more task or responsibility to them.”

Republicans who supported the legislation have warned school districts against making public statements on the bill. Rep. Ryan Williams said that a public statement would mark the school to potential shooters as having potentially less protection.

“If they did say that, they would be telling their entire community that the deterrent doesn’t exist there,” Williams said during debate over the bill.

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