John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA), says Tennessee’s candidates for Governor need to listen to more teachers before they speak for teachers. Harris was referring to whether teachers who have a carry permit should be allowed to carry on campus in order to protect themselves, their students and their colleagues in the event of a school shooting situation. Currently, less than half of Tennessee’s 1800 schools have an armed School Resource Officer (SRO) on campus leaving most Tennessee school children vulnerable.
During Tuesday night’s gubernatorial forum in Nashville, three of the five major candidates participating indicated that they opposed allowing trained and permitted teachers to carry their weapons on school grounds as an additional line of protection in the event of a shooting incident on campus. Democrats Craig Fitzhugh and Karl Dean, and Republican Beth Harwell all indicated that they did not support allowing teachers to be armed. Governor Bill Haslam, Vanderbilt professors, and the Tennessee teachers’ union (Tennessee Education Association) strongly opposed legislation sponsored by David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) that would have permitted teachers to carry guns on campus.
Republicans Bill Lee and Randy Boyd both said they supported allowing teachers who wished to do so, and were certified and trained, to carry firearms into their schools. Boyd, however, added a caveat that he hasn’t “met a teacher who wanted to.”
“What was disturbing, aside from their unwillingness to increase security in our schools, was that at least two of the candidates indicated that they didn’t know of any teachers willing to be armed on their campuses,” Harris pointed out. “Both Boyd and Dean claimed that they had not met or talked to any teacher willing to carry a weapon on school grounds — despite the fact that many teachers across the state already legally carry in some counties and more are willing to do so if the law permitted them to do so.” Two Tennessee counties already permit teachers to carry on campus, Wayne and Pickett.
Harris pointed to a Professional Educators of Tennessee, (ProEdTN) survey of over 1400 Tennessee teachers conducted earlier this year. That survey indicated that over half the teachers responding already had carry permits and 47% were willing to undergo additional training and carry their weapons on campus if allowed to do so.
J.C. Bowman, Executive Director of ProEdTN, said that there are a large number of teachers across the state who have already been issued carry permits, with many of them being former military or former law enforcement personnel. “We sent our survey results to every candidate for Governor, Republican and Democrat, and they should all be aware that there are hundreds of teachers who are in fact willing and able to do what it takes to increase the safety of our schools, including carrying their own weapons on campus,” Bowman noted. “Anybody claiming that teachers are unanimously or nearly universally opposed to providing an additional line of defense in our schools is either uninformed or not being honest.”
“Instead of listening to education bureaucrats and politically correct anti-2d Amendment advisors, we encourage all of the candidates to talk to more of the rank and file teachers and regular citizens across the state as they develop their public policy positions,” Harris said. “TFA would be happy to host a meeting for any of these candidate with gun owning teachers and citizens to help them better understand the reality of what Tennesseans really think and believe when it comes to the Second Amendment and protecting ourselves and our families.”
Congresswoman Diane Black was unable to attend the Forum sponsored by Leadership Tennessee at David Lipscomb University and moderated by Bob Mueller, WKRN News 2 co-anchor. However, her campaign issued the following statement to The Tennessee Star on the issue of allowing teachers to be armed on school grounds:
Only about half of our 1800 schools have armed School Resource Officers, so we need to immediately provide the protection our students deserve. We also need to review the current security policies and procedures at each school to determine if the proper security protocols are in place and being followed.
I believe that teachers who have a carry permit, have received additional training, and are willing to carry on school grounds should be legally allowed to do so in order to provide another level of protection in our schools. There are teachers ready, willing and able to do that all across our state, and I support them completely.