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Following Senate Passage of Arming Teachers Bill Following One Year Marker of Shooting at Covenant School, Tennessee House Follows Suit

April 23, 2024

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  The Tennessee chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots network, released the following statement in response to Tennessee House lawmakers passing a bill to arm teachers. Last legislative session, lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to pass similar legislation. Following the Senate floor passage of SB 1325 earlier this month, House lawmakers passed the companion bill, which will now head to Governor Lee’s desk where he will have the power to veto. 

“How has arming teachers become the response to students being shot and killed in school? This has to be one of–if not the most–ridiculous ‘solutions’ when it comes to preventing school shootings,” said Ibithal Cheko, a student at Hume Fogg High School and volunteer with the Students Demand Action Tennessee chapter. “We’re urging Governor Lee to listen to the thousands of students who have come to the statehouse this session and veto this bill. Lawmakers are more hellbent on making sure we have the proper tools to react to a shooting rather than working to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place.”

“Introducing guns into schools isn’t only ineffective, but increases risk: How will guns be stored? How do you ensure kids won’t get access to them? How do you ensure a gun isn’t used in a tense situation at school? These are all critical questions about this type of legislation that never gets answered,” Cathy Barnett, a volunteer with the Tennesee Chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Let teachers teach. This is not the job they signed up for.”

“As gun violence remains the number one killer of young people in our country, the absolute last thing we need is more guns in school,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action. “The fact that Tennessee lawmakers would rather arm teachers than pass basic, common-sense gun safety laws shows how little they care about actually keeping communities safe. Voters will not forget this — when these extremists are up for re-election, we’re coming for their seats first.”

“The solution to school shootings isn’t arming teachers — it’s passing common-sense laws to keep guns away from people who have no business being armed,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The passage of this reckless law is a black mark on the history of the Tennessee legislature, and we urge Governor Lee to listen to concerned parents and teachers and veto it.”

Following the one-year marker of the shooting at the Covenant School, the Tennessee chapters of Moms Demand Action, and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots network, have been calling on lawmakers to act on gun safety, including students holding a rally to advocate against arming teachers. 

Research shows that arming teachers introduces new risks of gun violence in schools and puts the lives of students, teachers, and law enforcement in danger. Arming teachers and people on campus only increases the chances of students experiencing gun violence at school. We’re seeing this in other states – states with the weakest gun laws tend to have higher rates of gun violence than states with stronger gun laws.

Arming teachers is opposed by school safety experts, teachers, and law enforcement, and with good reason. First, when a gun is in the classroom, students can get access to it. There have been multiple incidents of students and teachers finding misplaced firearms: in bathrooms, locker rooms, and even sporting events. Second, the notion of a highly trained teacher armed with a gun, able to respond as quickly as trained law enforcement, is a myth. Law enforcement officers receive hundreds of hours of training but Tennessee allows armed personnel to carry in schools with much less training.

Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens. Gun violence is a public health crisis that lawmakers can take active steps toward solving. Instead of militarizing Tennessee schools, lawmakers should work to pass secure storage legislation that has been proven effective in reducing the risk of gun violence. 

Tennessee currently has the 12th highest rate of gun deaths in the United States and some of the weakest gun laws in the country. Guns are the number one killer of children and teens in the U.S. and in Tennessee.

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