Bill to Arm Teachers Moves Ahead in Tennessee Senate

Republican proposals to arm teachers have advanced in Tennessee. Demonstrators protested against plans to allow teachers to carry concealed handguns on public school grounds. The bill, prompted by the deadly attack on the Covenant School in Nashville last year, passed through the state Senate by 26 votes to 5, despite objections from family members of those killed in the Covenant shootings.

The legislation contains measures preventing disclosure of which teachers are armed and clarifies that parents and students will not be informed.

Democratic Senator London Lamar described the bill as “dangerous” and insisted teachers did not want the right to carry guns. “Nobody wants it,” she added.

Amid raucous scenes, Republican Speaker Randy McNally spent 15 minutes trying to clear the public gallery as protestors chanted, “No more silence, end gun violence,” and “Kill the bill, not the kids.”

Republican lawmakers who favored the proposals said the intent is to protect children, not harm them. Justifying the decision not to inform parents or students which teachers are armed, Republican Senator Paul Bailey emphasized the importance of surprise. He argued that intruders will think twice about entering if they don’t know who is carrying a gun.

The policy passed through the Senate one year after the Covenant shootings last March. Three adults and three children died when Audrey Hale, who identified as transgender, broke into the Christian facility with three weapons and opened fire. She reportedly purchased the guns lawfully, prompting protests from gun control activists noting her history of mental health concerns.

Responding police officers shot the 28-year-old dead at the scene, and Nashville Police Chief John Drake said she had written a “manifesto” of grievances that was quickly handed over to the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.

The tragic incident prompted trans rights groups to accuse Tennessee of state-sanctioned transphobia. The Trans Resistance Network described Hale’s actions as an “effective way to be seen.” The group said trans people faced increasing discrimination and bias and concluded, “hate has consequences.”