NASHVILLE - A Tennessee House panel today approved legislation that would allow local school districts to employ armed security guards or approve school personnel to carry guns in schools.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee members on a voice vote. It now moves on to the full committee.
"This is just an option for those schools who don't have school resource officers," Watson explained. "This gives schools an option to hire their own security or want staff members willing to serve in that security capacity. Of course, they have to go through a lot of series of training to get to that point."
School personnel would have to undergo criminal background checks, complete an eight-hour gun safety class and also take police-level training in how to deal with crisis situations and other coursework, Watson said.
Currently, Watson said, gun-free safety zones prohibits the carrying of guns except by law enforcement officers.
Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, opposed the idea of expanding that to school personnel.
"I'm worried," Stewart said. "We should keep it to the true law enforcement officials who have that extremely high level of training."
Lawmakers have introduced any number of bills dealing with arming school personnel, hiring school resource officers and other measures in the wake of last December's massacre of 20 children and six teachers in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.