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'It’s a dangerous idea,' says Tennessee Rep. Justin Pearson on bill to arm teachers in schools

Pearson told Scripps News that he intends to strongly advocate for Gov. Lee to veto this legislation.
Tennessee State Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis
Posted at 4:36 PM, Apr 24, 2024

Some teachers in Tennessee could soon be allowed to carry guns inside public school grounds.

Despite strong opposition from parents, educators, and some lawmakers who argue it would not deter school shootings and could instead result in additional injuries, the state's legislature passed a bill Tuesdaythat would allow teachers and staff with permits to carry concealed handguns while at school without having to let parents know they are armed.

The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Bill Lee for his signature.

Tennessee State Rep. Justin J. Pearson, a Democrat and former community activist from Memphis who represents District 86, stands firm in his support for gun control. In an interview with Scripps News, he expressed serious concerns about the implications the proposed bill would have if it goes into law, deeming it "dangerous."

"I'm deeply disturbed that the Tennessee Republican Party have put forward legislation that we know is dangerous and that we know will lead to more gun violence in schools. In response to the gun violence epidemic that is guns being the number one killer of children in our state, the Republican Party have decided that putting guns in the schoolhouse door is the solution,” said Pearson.

Pearson told Scripps News that he intends to strongly advocate for Gov. Lee to veto this legislation. He believes that if the bill is signed into law, accidents and mistakes are inevitable.

Pearson said tha he is “very terrifed for the day when the student finds this firearm and they accidentally discharge it, harming themselves or their peers. I'm scared that a teacher is going to seek to stop an active shooter because we have failed to pass red flag laws, we have failed to make our community safer, and the police officer who sees this teacher with the firearm is going to fire on them, potentially killing that teacher who's trying to defend the school. There are so many unintended consequences from terrible pieces of legislation like this that I am just really worried for our teachers, for our staff members, for our students."

Following The Covenant School shooting in Nashville last year, which claimed the lives of six individuals, the Republican governor signed an executive order aimed at strengthening background checks for firearm purchases, and because of this, Pearson is optimistic that those who voice their concerns or protest against this new bill may sway the governor's decision, potentially preventing its enactment into law.