‘Drunk with power’: Chaos erupts at Tennessee statehouse after legislature passes bill to allow teachers to carry concealed guns in schools

People hold signs in the gallery against a bill that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session in the House chamber Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

People hold signs in the gallery against a bill that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session in the House chamber Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Pandemonium broke out at the Tennessee State House Tuesday after the legislature passed a controversial bill that would allow teachers and school staff to carry concealed handguns on school grounds without parents being notified. Students and other protesters held a “die in” and chanted “blood on your hands” and “fascism” in the gallery, state troopers cleared parents from the room, and at least one state lawmaker said he was “physically shoved” by one of his colleagues.

The Republican-dominated lawmaking body voted 68-28 to adopt S.B. 1325, with four Republicans and all Democrats opposing the bill. If the measure becomes law, it would require those carrying guns on campus to undergo training and have permission from school officials, but it would not require that parents or other school employees be notified.

People perform a die-in during a demonstration against a bill allowing some teachers to be armed in schools on the House floor during a legislative session Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

The legislation comes just over a year after the deadliest mass shooting in Tennessee’s history left three students and three staffers dead at an elementary school in Nashville.

Tennessee’s existing gun laws limit the carrying of firearms on school grounds to law enforcement officers employed at schools or to school resources officers. The bill significantly widens that scope to allow school staff members with an enhanced handgun carry permit and approval from the school’s principal, district director, and local law enforcement agencies. It requires that the staff member complete 40 hours of school policing training, undergo a background check, submit fingerprints to state and federal authorities, and submit a psychological certification from a licensed health provider. The bill limits the permit such that guns cannot be carried into auditoriums, stadiums, disciplinary meetings, tenure meetings, or into a clinic.

It also immunizes law enforcement agencies from monetary damage claims that arise from a faculty or staff member’s misuse of a handgun authorized by the bill.

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