Lawmakers figuring out Newtown reaction

Lawmakers figuring out Newtown reaction (Image 1)

In the legislative wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, many state lawmakers filed bills to prevent such a thing from happening in Tennessee, but the question remains what is going to pass as this year's session winds down?

A measure to arm some school personnel took a step forward last week when it received Governor Bill Haslam's blessing after an amendment was added that any staffer carrying a weapon must be a certified police officer.

That bill came with a previous provision that local school districts would have the final say so.

While the bill would seem to be on a track to pass with the governor blessings, one powerful Republican state lawmaker voiced some concerns with the bill to Nashville's News 2 on Tuesday.

Charles Sargent, who chairs the House Finance Committee, wonders in an event like Newtown how other police know the difference between a shooter and a teacher who might be allowed to carry a weapon.

“Both could say, ‘I'm a teacher, I'm a teacher' if confronted by law enforcement, and what do you do?” Sargent asked.

He said he plans to raise the concern before he eventually votes on the bill.

Other top lawmakers, such as House Speaker Beth Harwell, were cautious about the measure's eventual fate.

“If they are trained personnel they should be able to protect our schools but we don't want our average teacher having to do that,” she said.

Another gun bill related to student safety is a measure that would help fund local districts in having police officers in schools.

“We are going to have to search for funds and hopefully we will have some state money that will offset the cost,” said Rep. Sargent.

In Williamson County, where he lives, the district itself funded 32-new student resource officers for the rest of this year after the Newtown shootings.

Like other counties across the state, the county is hoping that some state or federal funds become available to help fund the officers school districts are hiring.

What that final number for state funding of local district SROs will be is anyone's guess as lawmakers are just starting to hammer out next year's state budget.

“We are in the process of doing that this week,” added the House Speaker.

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