Tennessee Moves Closer to True Gun Safety Education in Schools Over Democrats' Opposition

AP Photo/Ron Harris

The gun control lobby has invested a lot of time and money trying to rebrand itself as a "gun safety" movement, even though its definition of gun safety is "don't own a gun". It's no surprise, then, that many of their allies in the Tennessee legislature are opposed to a bill that would require schools to offer actual gun safety instruction to students. 

Despite the opposition from Democrats, HB 2882 sailed through the House Education Instruction Committee on a 12-3 vote on Tuesday, with Democrat Rep. Ronnie Glynn joining 11 of his Republican colleagues to vote in favor of the bill. It's hard to imagine that anyone, even the most ardent of anti-gunners, could object to the legislation, which mandates age-appropriate instruction on firearm storage and what to do if a kid finds a gun, but several of Glynn's fellow Democrats managed to muster up some dubious arguments against the proposal. 

“I just think that we're setting some kids up for a very rough time, unnecessarily,” Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, said. “When kids ask questions, they're going to talk about gun violence, and they're going to talk about these things and I don't know how the person who's doing this training is supposed to address gun violence in a neutral way.”

Todd responded that teachers could tailor the instruction to their particular students.

“This is literally teaching how to respond if you see an inanimate object that can be dangerous,” he said.

Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville, argued that parents should have the opportunity to opt out their child from the training. 

“I think there should be some kind of provision for opt out – especially for people who have religious reasons,” Dixie said. “If we have people that can opt out of reading books, we should be able to have someone to opt out of this, if they don't feel it's appropriate for their child. I thought we believed in parent’s choice.”

These are silly and superficial arguments. The text of the bill doesn't mandate that educators remain viewpoint-neutral on violent crime, only that the instruction that is offered doesn't take a pro-or-anti stand on gun ownership. As for Dixie's assertion that parents should be able to opt out of the education, Rep. John Ragan argued that “opting out of a fire drill or opting out of traffic safety training or any other kind of safety training is ridiculous,” adding that the legislation “is about protecting children – keeping them safe. And a parent’s objection to that is entirely misplaced.” 

HB 2882 shouldn't be controversial, but anti-gun Democrats and the local press seem determined to find whatever specious argument they can to prevent the bill from moving forward. Tennessean reporter Vivian Jones, for example, took issue with a different vote cast by bill sponsor Rep. Chris Todd in her coverage of Tuesday's vote. 

But while his bill requires school children to be taught safe storage concepts, Todd has repeatedly voted against any requirement for adult gun owners to store their guns safely ― or even learn principals of safe storage.

During a special legislative session on gun safety last summer, Todd voted against a bill to require safe storage concepts to be included in state-approved handgun safety courses. The bill, which became law despite Todd's opposition, also directed the state to provide free gun locks to Tennessee residents on request, and exempted gun safes from sales tax.

Maybe Todd has changed his mind since last year's special session, or maybe he simply believes that its more appropriate to provide this instruction to kids rather than current gun owners. Regardless of his rationale for voting against the bill that was approved in the special session, HB 2882 is worthy of support this session, and it shouldn't be derailed because a handful of anti-gun lawmakers believe in an abstinence-based approach to gun safety based on the idea that no one should ever own a firearm to begin with. 

The next stop for the House bill is the Calendar and Rules Committee, while a Senate companion is still awaiting action in the Education Committee. Hopefully we'll see both of these bills receive a floor vote in their respective chambers in short order, and kids throughout the state will soon be learning that if they see a gun they should stop, don't touch, run away, and tell an adult.