A press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at Bradley Central High School to announce legislation giving local schools an option to train certain faculty and staff to combat an active shooter in school buildings.
He said reaction to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut increased the debate about how best to protect against school-place violence. As part of that debate, legislators began searching for ways to protect schools.
Watson said he has received 60 calls from school administrators and teachers in District 22 who asked him for help. The legislation will allow highly trained faculty and staff to carry a weapon under specific guidelines.
Those individuals must have a handgun carry permit and permission from local education agencies. They must also take further training in crisis management and hostile situations. In addition, ammunition in the weapon will have to minimize the risk of ricochet.
“The bill has specific training requirements similar to air marshals to maintain anonymity,” Watson said. “No one will know who the authorized person is and no one will see a gun carried by a teacher.”
School officials, law enforcement, state attorneys, research analysts and Watson himself created the bill during the past three weeks. The bill is similar to one currently in effect in Texas.
“This is a well-thought-out bill,” he said. “I have not spoken to the NRA about it; it is not an NRA bill.”
He said the bill gives local educators options.
“This is not a mandate and it costs the local districts nothing,” he said. “Today, as a state, as a nation, we grieve for the lost of innocence from the events that occurred in a violent outburst on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn. The event was so horrific no words have been invented to satisfactorily describe the horror experienced by the precious elementary students, their principals, their teachers, their parents or the small New England community that will never be the same. There is nothing any of us can do, to ease their pain, or to cause these little children to come back to their families.
“The violence we see spreading from shopping malls in Oregon, to movie theaters in Colorado, to college campuses in Virginia, to elementary schools in Connecticut, is being spawned by the society in which we live.
“Politicians can no longer be allowed to defend their personal ideologies. We must instead protect our children. Parents will no longer tolerate inaction from politicians.”
Watson said Speaker of the House Beth Harwell supports the bill.
Watson said, “Our state does all it can to promote business, lower taxes and decrease the size of government, but now is the time to begin doing all we can to stop the next attack on a movie theater, a shopping mall, a college campus or an elementary class.
“We must now focus on enforcing our current laws and expanding the use of resources to an unprotected class. The people must know that we will do all we can in Tennessee to protect our children.”
“This legislation will let the individuals who commit these crimes know that in Tennessee, we will protect our children. We must now use every action to solve, prevent, and stop these events from occurring,” Watson said.