The Honorable Rep. Mark White
Chair, House Education Administration

RE: Opposition for HB1202

As a collective of teachers, parents, students, education leaders, and community members of diverse backgrounds from across all three Grand Divisions in the State of Tennessee, we are writing to express our strong opposition for HB1202, which will be considered by the
House Education Administration Committee today.

HB1202 would allow a person employed by a local education agency (LEA) as a faculty or staff member at a school within the LEA to possess and carry a concealed handgun on the grounds of their school at which the person is assigned. Additionally, this bill establishes requirements for faculty or staff members to possess and carry concealed handguns on the grounds of the school, and states that an LEA is immune from claims for monetary damages that are related to a faculty member’s use of, or failure to use, a handgun at school.

This past week, Nashville tragically lost the lives of three nine-year old students and three adults at The Covenant School. This tragedy has not only left our state in mourning, grieving for the preventable loss of life in our community, but also highlights the need to employ evidence-based strategies to create safer schools, which must include removing guns from schools to protect our children. What happened in Nashville is not an isolated incident. In 2022, we saw a surge of gun-related violence and death in schools across the state from Murfreesboro, to Knoxville, Memphis, and beyond.

Gun violence will not stop if we arm teachers, and there is ample evidence that increased access to guns does not make schools safer. According to Giffords Law Center, armed adults frequently mishandle guns in schools. Their study shows that there have been nearly 100 publicly reported incidents of mishandled guns in schools over the last five years, including a case where a teacher unintentionally fired a gun in class during a safety demonstration, and a loaded gun falling out of a teacher’s waistband while on the playground. Their findings show that armed staff does not decrease the number of school shooting incidents. On the contrary, increases students’ exposure to gun violence in schools.

The safety and well-being of all students in Tennessee is a top priority for us. However, creating safe learning environments through school hardening policies, including arming teachers, is not the answer. A positive school climate results from building strong teacher student relationships, creating a culture of belonging, and fostering a supportive learning environment for social and emotional growth. Creating a safe school community requires us to take steps to protect students’ from physical harm. Elevating students’ proximity to guns inside their classrooms would unnecessarily exacerbate the risks, threats, and the potential for more deadly outcomes across our state. Further, since carrying a concealed gun is confidential and barred from public inspection, parents would lack critical knowledge for their students’ safety and have no say if their children were close to staff carrying concealed guns.

Allowing teachers to carry concealed guns is not a solution to address gun violence in our schools. Tennessee has some of the least restrictive gun laws and one of the nation’s highest rates of gun-related deaths. Creating new policies to loosen restrictions on guns in our school communities will only create further mechanisms to endanger the lives of our youngest citizens.

The undersigned advocates
cc: Members, House Education Administration Committee; Rep. Ryan Williams

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