published Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Questions raised about armed Tennessee teachers plan

Poll
Should teachers be armed?

NASHVILLE — House Speaker Beth Harwell said Wednesday she doesn't believe allowing Tennessee teachers to go armed is the right answer to last week's massacre of elementary schoolchildren in Connecticut.

"I think it would be asking way too much of our teachers for them to be armed in a classroom, and I'm not in favor of going down that route," Harwell, R-Nashville, told reporters. "I really think you really have to be highly qualified to handle a gun in a high-stress situation, which is in fact what that was."

A day earlier, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam also raised questions, asking, "What if the teacher doesn't want to be armed? ... There's just a lot of questions about that to me in terms of how that would work."

In recent days, two East Tennessee Republican lawmakers have advocated allowing teachers or school staffers to be trained and armed.

In a blog posting, Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he "will be bringing back legislation to allow licensed and checked faculty and staff, at schools, to be able to have a gun on campus if a safety officer is not present on campus."

Newly elected Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, has said he is interested in putting law enforcement officers in schools or having "similarly trained" teachers or staffers in schools.

Harwell said she was stating her "personal opinion" and doesn't know what her GOP colleagues' thinking is.

But since Friday's schoolhouse killing of 20 children and six adults by a lone gunman, Harwell noted, "certainly we've realized we need additional security in our schools and unfortunately that's a really sad commentary on our society."

Asked whether the state should help pay for school resource officers, Harwell said, "I'm not proposing any legislation to that regard. I'm just speaking my personal opinion."

She said "many times that's a local decision" to have armed law enforcement on hand at schools.

Haslam told reporters Tuesday that when he was Knoxville mayor, local governments provided money for resource officers in most if not all schools.

"Ultimately that feels more like a local decision than a state decision to me," Haslam said.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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