Vote Against Allowing Armed Teachers Roils Tennessee Republican Primary

AP Photo/Marina Riker, File

When Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill allowing school districts to have trained and vetted staff members carry concealed firearms to defend against active shooter attacks on campus, the vast majority of Republicans supported the measure. State Rep. Kevin Raper was one of the few members of the GOP caucus to oppose the legislation, claiming that "not one single person" he spoke to encouraged him to support the bill. 


'I listened to city council. I listened to the county commissioners. I listened to both school boards. I listened to both directors of schools and law enforcement,' [Raper] said. 'They were unanimous in saying, 'Please don't vote for this.’”

Raper's comment is now being called into question by his opponent in the August 1 primary. Troy Weathers asked members of the Cleveland City Council and the Bradley County Board of Commissioners this week if Raper had reached out to either body for their input, and couldn't find a single member who said they'd been contacted. 

In a Tuesday, June 25, statement to the Banner, Commission Chairman Thomas Crye said, "Rep. Raper allegedly made the statement that he contacted the county commission, the city council and the two directors of schools and no one approved of the teacher gun legislation. I can only speak for the county commission, but they were not, as a body, contacted by Raper.

Crye added, "As an individual, I was not contacted, and I have not heard of other commissioners being contacted either.”

Earlier on Monday, Weathers told city council members that, during the debate, Raper said "you folks told him not to support that bill.” 

“I'm saddened that someone would go to that level to say that you've done something that I don't believe that you did,” he said.

Weathers said when candidates run for office, they should “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Although Weathers said he had personally spoken to some council members who told him they had had no such a conversation with Raper, he did not specify whom.

Following Weathers’ remarks, Cleveland City Councilman Tom Cassada asked if council members had been contacted by Raper prior to the vote, which was responded by a smattering of barely audible responses indicating they had not.


Some (or even all) of these local officials may very well be opposed to SB 1325, but even if that is the case not one of them has come forward to say that they addressed their concerns with Raper. So what does the representative have to say for himself? The Cleveland Daily Banner reached out to Raper for comment, and he offered a modified version of his original claim. 

“I am committed to doing my best to serve the people who elected me to be their voice in the state House.” 

“More than 100 of my constituents earlier this year expressed their desire for me to vote ‘No’ on legislation allowing eligible school personnel to carry a concealed firearm,” Raper said.

Additionally, Raper said he had also spoken “with several community stakeholders" who urged him to vote against the bill, including the “directors of schools and members of the county commission, Cleveland City Council, both school boards and law enforcement.” 

“As with every issue, each letter, phone call and conversation I have with the people I represent is prayerfully taken into consideration when I cast my vote in Nashville,” Raper said. “My record reflects the will of the people in House District 24, who I proudly serve.” 

Raper went from "not a single person" supported the bill to "more than 100" constituents opposed it. His statement about listening to county commissioners and the city council is now apparently some members of the county commission and city council, though he still didn't say who he spoke to. 


Given that no member of the county commission or city council has confirmed that they spoke to Raper, while several officials have stated they never spoke to him about the bill at all, the representative's response is decidedly lacking. Raper could easily clear this up, however. All he has to do is state on the record which commissioners and council members told him they opposed the armed school staff bill, which would allow local media like the Daily Banner to confirm (or debunk) his account of the conversations he allegedly had with those officials. 

If his opposition to SB 1325 is as in line with the community as he says it is, he shouldn't have a problem coming up with the names of those officials who supposedly urged him to vote "no." In fact, if the opposition really was unanimous, as Raper originally claimed, then it's surprising that no officials have come out to back up either of his statements. Raper's original statement was, at the very least, incredibly misleading, until he's willing able to offer up some specifics, he's given voters little reason to take his modified statement at face value. 

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