The Covenant shooting in Nashville, Tennessee rattled the entire state. That, in turn, set the stage for the legislature to become an absolute circus.
A special session was held ostensibly to consider gun control measures, but really did little else except allow some state lawmakers to up their profile.
Now, the regular session is in, well, session.
The special session yielded no new gun control laws to speak of, but some are pushing for them once again. In addition, some pro-gun bills are up for consideration.
Allowing armed teachers at schools
HB 1202, a bill that would allow school staff to carry concealed handguns on campus, could emerge as high-profile legislation early in the 2024 session. It is a holdover from 2023 and could be poised for a full House vote at nearly any time.
Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, filed the bill in January 2023, but it drew wider criticism following the Covenant shooting from gun-reform advocates and some educators who argued more guns on campus would further endanger students.
In April, a group of protesters, including educators, packed the House gallery to hear debate on the bill, but it was quickly tabled on the House floor. The move effectively stalled the legislation for 2023 but kept it alive for the 2024 session.
I’m still baffled by educators actively protesting this bill. If it required them to carry a gun, I’d get it, but it simply allows for the option.
Or are they admitting that educators aren’t worthy of being trusted with firearms at all?
Creating gun violence prevention office
SB 1693, sponsored by Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, would create a state gun violence prevention office within the Tennessee Department of Safety. The office would be tasked with collecting data on gun violence with an aim at developing prevention strategies.
Akbari does not yet have a House sponsor for the proposal.
It should be noted that the data in question is already being collected in Tennessee. It’s collected everywhere. Plus, why do I suspect that none of these “prevention strategies” will deal with violent crime as a whole and will, instead, be just calls for gun control?
Any “gun violence prevention office” is nothing more than a jobs program for gun control activists anyway.
The fact that there’s not a House sponsor makes me giggle.
Gun policies for private schools
HB 1631 would amend current law to explicitly allow private schools to adopt a handgun carry policy on school property. The bill’s Republican sponsors, Rep. Gino Bulso, R-Brentwood, and Sen. Joey Hensely, R-Hohenwald, say it would clarify existing state law that allows private schools serving kindergarten through 12th grade to adopt a handgun carry policy.
Yeah, that should be a thing. Any ambiguity in existing law is likely to lead to schools opting to keep staff disarmed just in case they misunderstand what’s permitted.
Clarifying it is a very good thing.
I don’t know that it would have stopped Covenant or not, though I suspect it might have done some good, but clarification in the law is rarely a bad thing.
Safe storage requirements
HB 1667 authorizes local governments to regulate gun storage in unoccupied vehicles. The proposal, first filed by Rep. Caleb Hemmer, D-Nashville, would apply only to counties with a population over 98,800.
Republicans have so far resisted efforts to enact safe storage requirements statewide. Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, is the senate sponsor.
These are properly termed as “mandatory storage requirements,” rather than “safe storage.” The reason is that it doesn’t actually account for anyone’s personal situation, it simply mandates everyone lock their guns up.
I’ve seen too many cases where young people, for example, protected their lives or the lives of others with guns they had access too–access that would be illegal under this bill.
Also under consideration in Tennessee is a red flag bill, increasing penalties for gun theft, and a firearm “hold” bill that would allow gun stores to temporarily hold someone’s guns and thus allow them to hand them to another party if they’re feeling suicidal or feel someone in their household is.
In other words, Tennessee looks to be an interesting place this year.