Local law enforcement agencies support arming teachers

(WJHL) — Tennessee teachers are just one signature away from gaining the ability to carry concealed weapons in their classrooms, and some local law enforcement agencies say they welcome the help securing school campuses.

A controversial bill allowing teachers who already have a concealed carry permit and meet certain criteria has passed the Tennessee General Assembly and is awaiting the signature of Gov. Bill Lee.

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But local law enforcement agencies say they’re not waiting to talk with local school leaders about how they’d implement a program in their jurisdiction.

Leaders with the Elizabethton Police Department and the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office told News Channel 11 they’re prepared to give the permission needed to allow teachers to carry.

“We would absolutely support it,” said Unicoi Chief Deputy Frank Rogers.

Elizabethton Police Chief Jason Shaw agreed.

“I think it will have a good outcome,” Shaw said, pointing out that several other states have already passed similar laws.

“When implemented as our legislators have intended, I think really this will ultimately help increase the security and safety of our schools,” Shaw said.

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Rogers says the reason he’d like to arm teachers is simple: having more people trained to respond to a crisis on campus could be critical in the event of an armed threat.

“I’m not talking about minutes, but seconds count,” Rogers said. “And the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. “

Before teachers can carry, local law enforcement, the superintendent or director of schools, and a school’s principal would have to come to an agreement. On top of that teachers will have to complete 40 hours of annual, state-approved training on school policing.

Rogers said that training will likely resemble the courses for school resource officers, with a focus not just on skills in the gun range but on real-life crisis scenarios.

“You have to practice that and not just practice, but demonstrate that you’re capable under stress of selecting the correct target and striking the correct target without collateral damage,” Rogers said.

News Channel 11 reached out to the directors of both Unicoi County Schools and Elizabethton City Schools for comment.

Both responded with a written statement.

“We will certainly be having discussions with our school board and have already been in communication with local law enforcement and will be working with both to make decisions and figure out our next steps.”

John English, Unicoi County Director of Schools

“We will be consulting with local law enforcement and our board attorney to determine the best path forward for our students and staff.”

Richard VanHuss, Elizabethton Director of Schools

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