Voluntary arming of some Tennessee teachers passes first test

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – State Republicans and Democrats are divided about a bill arming some volunteer teachers, but the measure passed its first test Wednesday on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill.

“I am getting a lot more support this time than last time,” said sponsor David Byrd, who is a retired principal, teacher and coach.

He previously passed a similar bill a during his first term that would help his home district in Wayne County where the local government could not afford student resource officers (SROs), but there was difficulty in getting the proper training for teachers with gun permits who wanted to be trained.

Rep. Byrd’s updated bill would allow districts statewide– if they choose– to let some teachers voluntarily carry properly permitted guns in their schools.

It would allow up to one armed teacher for every 75 students.

The lawmaker was planning to update his similar bill that also included Pickett County to arm some teachers, but then school tragedy struck again.

“Of course the shooting happened in Florida after that and everyone asked me if I would expand [the bill] to statewide,” he told News 2.

Rep. Byrd wants 40-hours of training by either public law enforcement or a private certified firearms instructor

Later, in front of opponents wearing red shirts filling a subcommittee room, Byrd made the same points while hearing criticism from Democrats, teachers and even the state education department.

“I think it is not only an injustice to the teachers and students, it’s also an injustice to our law enforcement,” said Democrat Rep. Bill Beck of Nashville.

There was also testimony from the Tennessee Department of Education in opposition to the bill.

They raised questions about what “certified” would mean in the private firearms training.

A spokesman for the Tennessee Education Association, which represents teachers, raised questions about “when one teacher is armed and another one not, how does that change the dynamics” between themselves, other staffers and most importantly with students.

After almost 90-minutes of debate Wednesday afternoon, the measure passed its first test right along party lines. The five Republicans on the committee voted for it and the two Democrats against it.

The bill now goes to the full Civil Justice Committee next week, but the measure is likely on road to passing.

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