NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Monday morning, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order aimed at enhancing school safety following the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two adults.
“Our schools should be a safe place that we want our kids, and the teachers, and the staff to know that they can go to school and come back safely,” Governor Lee said.
Executive Order 97 requires things like new active shooter training standards for police, more frequent and unannounced security assessments at every public school, and new safety plans and resource guides for parents and teachers to be issued ahead of the upcoming school year.
“We have to work together to do the small things right and to treat our public schools with the same vigilance that we would our homes,” Lee said.
The order does not include plans for stricter gun laws in Tennessee.
“We’re not looking at gun restriction laws in my administration right now. Criminals don’t follow laws, criminals break laws. Whether they are a gun law, a drug law, criminals break laws,” Governor Lee said. “We can’t control what they do.”
Instead, Lee said he’s focused on alternatives like working to add a school resource officer to every school in the state — a push that began in 2019 when a grant placed 213 new SROs into classrooms.
Williamson County State Representative, Brandon Ogles (District 61), said Governor Lee has “championed” school safety in Tennessee since he took office.
“When I first came in as a state rep I was working on a piece of legislation to put an SRO in every school. Everybody said I was crazy. The governor stepped in and provided a whole lot of funding. We got a whole lot done. And it sounds like today that he’s willing to do what’s necessary to finish that and put an SRO in every one of our schools,” Ogles said.
But some Tennessee Democrats weren’t pleased with the governor’s new plans, including Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) who issued a statement calling for action to reduce gun violence in Tennessee after the executive order was published. Her full statement is below:
“Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children in America. We are the only country in the world with a major political party that chooses to do nothing to stop gun violence from kill our kids. Unfortunately, Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order on school safety is more of the same. While I am again disappointed, I am not surprised.
Taking action to reduce gun violence shouldn’t come down to party politics. This is a clear emergency and we must act now. We cannot allow another person to be murdered in a school, grocery store, or place of worship.
There have been nearly two dozen mass shootings in America since the Uvalde massacre at Robb Elementary. At least 54 people were injured and 11 were killed in separate mass shootings this weekend, one of which was in Chattanooga, where three Tennesseans died.
It’s not video games. It’s not our teachers or library books. It’s guns.
We cannot continue to let gun industry lobbyists decide what’s best for public health and safety. It’s killing us. I reject the notion that we are helpless against confronting gun violence.
Tennessee families believe in responsible gun ownership and they support laws that would deny firearms and weapons of war to people who can’t pass a background check. That’s not radical. That’s just common sense.
For all the talk about freedom, remember that our families and kids deserve the freedom to live. There are plenty of evidence-based solutions to reduce gun violence that work. If we can save another family from the pain and anguish of burying [a] 9-year-old child, I feel morally obligated to try.“