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TN to allow teachers to conceal carry

April 23, 2024 the Tennessee State Senate passed an amendment to allow qualified public school personnel to carry a concealed handgun on schools grounds.

HB 1202 and SB 1325 AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13 and Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 8, relative to schools.

Teachers, Principals and School Personnel – As introduced, authorizes a faculty or staff member of a school to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds subject to certain conditions, including obtaining an enhanced handgun carry permit and completing annual training. – Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13 and Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 8.

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Coffee County Sheriff Chad Partin told Thunder Radio, “If the school system presents me with a person, I will vet them and follow the law as written and provide the best training possible”.

Director of Coffee County Schools, Dr. Charles Lawson told Thunder Radio, “There have not been any discussions about this legislation by the Coffee County School Board”.

Director of Manchester City Schools, Dr. Joey Vaughn told Thunder Radio, “Educators across the state of Tennessee continue to have the best interest of every child at the forefront of our work. It is our belief that public dollars should be spent on public education. We will always work to do what is best for our kids and their families and look forward to continuing that process in the coming years”.

Present law generally makes it a Class E felony offense for a person to possess or carry, with the intent to go armed, a firearm not used solely for instructional or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in any school building or bus, on any school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field or any other property owned, operated, or while in use by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution. The commission of such offense without the intent to go armed is a Class B misdemeanor offense. Present law specifies numerous exceptions to the general prohibition against possessing or carrying a firearm on school property. Two such exceptions are:

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(1) A person employed by an LEA as a faculty or staff member at a school within the LEA; or

(2) A person assigned to a school in accordance with a MOU between the chief of the appropriate law enforcement agency and the LEA.

In order to possess and carry a firearm on school grounds pursuant to (1) or (2), the person must:

(1) Possess an enhanced handgun carry permit;

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(2) Have the joint written authorization of the director of schools in conjunction with the principal of the school to carry or possess a firearm on school property; and

(3) Be a law enforcement officer, or have prior service as a law enforcement officer, and comply with all requirements POST commission, and have successfully completed 40 hours in basic training in school policing.

This bill revises the requirements for a person employed by an LEA as a faculty or staff member at a school within the LEA to carry a firearm on school grounds as follows:

(1) Limits the type of firearm and manner of carry to a concealed handgun;

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(2) Specifies that a person must not be prohibited from carrying a handgun under the laws of Tennessee or federal law;

(3) Replaces the requirement for joint written authorization of the director of schools in conjunction with the principal of the school with written authorization of the chief of the appropriate law enforcement agency;

(4) Removes the requirement for current or prior law enforcement experience;

(5) Adds that, in addition to the initial 40 hours of basic training in school policing, the faculty or staff member must complete a minimum of 40 hours of POST commission-approved training that is specific to school policing each year in order to retain the authorization;

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(6) Specifies that students may not be so authorized, even if the person is a student and an employee; and

(7) Specifies certain places where a concealed firearm may not be carried, such as: auditoriums and stadiums where school events are taking place; certain meetings; clinics and hospitals; and areas that are posted as prohibiting possession of firearms.

The requirements for a current or former law enforcement officer who is assigned to a school in accordance with a MOU between the police chief or sheriff and the LEA to carry firearms on school property will remain the same as under present law. This bill specifies that when a director of schools notifies a police chief or sheriff of authorization for a current or former law enforcement officer to carry or possess a firearm on school grounds, the director must provide the law enforcement agency with the person’s basic information, including the person’s name, address, and contact information.

Present law generally makes confidential and not open for public inspection information concerning approval, or lack of approval, for a current or former law enforcement officer to carry a firearm on school grounds. This bill adds confidentiality requirements for information concerning LEA employees who may carry a concealed handgun on school property; provided, that law enforcement agencies will be authorized to provide such information to school resource officers.

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This bill specifies that an LEA is immune from claims for monetary damages that arise solely from, or that are related to, a faculty or staff member’s use of, or failure to use, a handgun; provided, that the faculty or staff member is authorized to carry the handgun.

ON APRIL 9, 2024, THE SENATE ADOPTED AMENDMENT #3 AND PASSED SENATE BILL 1325, AS AMENDED.

AMENDMENT #3 makes the following changes:

(1) Provides that in order to possess and carry a handgun or firearm on school grounds, the faculty or staff member must also have the joint written authorization of the LEA’s director of schools in conjunction with the principal of the school at which the person is assigned;

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(2) Clarifies that in order to possess and carry a handgun or firearm on school grounds, the faculty or staff member must not be prohibited from purchasing, possessing, and carrying a handgun under the laws of Tennessee or federal law as determined by a background check. The faculty or staff member must submit two full sets of classifiable fingerprints to the law enforcement agency from which the faculty or staff member is seeking authorization under this bill. The agency must then submit the fingerprints to the TBI. Upon receipt of the fingerprints from the agency, the TBI must: (i) within 30 days, conduct computer searches to determine the person’s eligibility to purchase, possess, or carry a handgun as are available to the bureau based solely upon the person’s name, date of birth, and social security number, and send the results of the searches to the submitting agency; (ii) conduct a criminal history record check based upon one set of the fingerprints received, and send the results to the submitting agency; and (iii) send one set of the fingerprints received from the submitting agency to the FBI; request a federal criminal history record check based upon the fingerprints, as long as the service is available; and send the results of the check to the submitting agency;

(3) Provides that in order to possess and carry a handgun or firearm on school grounds, the faculty or staff member must have been certified by a Tennessee licensed healthcare provider, who is qualified in the psychiatric or psychological field and who contracts with the authorizing law enforcement agency, as being free from any impairment that would, in the professional judgment of the examiner, affect the faculty or staff member’s ability to safely possess and carry a concealed handgun on the grounds of a school;

(4) Revises the provision in the bill requiring the faculty or staff member to complete a minimum of 40 hours of training specific to school policing that has been approved by the peace officer standards and training (POST) commission each year to retain the authorization by requiring such training to include hands-on instruction with the authorizing law enforcement;

(5) Provides that law enforcement agencies are also immune from claims for monetary damages that arise solely from, or that are related to, a faculty or staff member’s use of, or failure to use, a handgun so long as the faculty or staff member is authorized to carry the handgun pursuant to this bill;

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(6) Specifies that authorization to carry firearms in a school by faculty or staff members, or persons assigned to a school under a MOU between local law enforcement and the LEA, does not apply to schools within the department of children’s services’ LEA or to schools within the department of correction’s LEA; and

(7) Defines “appropriate law enforcement agency” (for purposes of identifying a law enforcement agency that may enter into an MOU with the LEA) to mean to the law enforcement agency that employs a school resource officer that is assigned to the school or if such officer is not assigned to the school, the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the school.

The bill now heads to Governor Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law.

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