Watson school gun bill moves
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Mar 27, 2013 | 1761 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Eric Watson
Eric Watson
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The School Security Act of 2013 advanced Monday after the Civil Justice Subcommittee recommended the bill for passage.

State Rep. Eric Watson said H.B. 6 gives school districts the option to hire security personnel, such as law enforcement, retired law enforcement, veterans or school staff willing to serve as security staff.

Watson said the lives of educators and students should be held in high regard.

“They are the future of our city, county and our great state. The children should be able to go to school and feel like they are protected,” he said. “Although some larger counties may be able to afford school resource officers, some of the smaller counties cannot. This bill would allow those, with the approval of the director of schools, to serve in the capacity and become compliant with TCA 39-17-1351.”

Requirements would include successfully completing an eight-hour handgun safety course that is certified by the Department of Safety. Personnel must be U.S. citizens, a resident of the state and undergo a background check conducted by the TBI.

They will also have to pass a 40-hour course in basic school policing training, which includes training in crisis management and hostile situations. The person would also have to complete an annual eight-hour Peace Officers Standards and Training certified firearm training program; and an annual eight-hour crisis management and hostile situations training course.

He said local school districts will have the option to add qualifications and requirements as they see fit. The act will apply to school year 2013-2014 and each school year thereafter. If enacted, the local school district would make the final decision on whether or not to exercise the option.

“I make every effort daily to fight for the best for not only the people of my district, but for all of Tennessee,” Watson said.

Watson announced the legislation Jan. 7 during a press conference at Bradley Central High School. The legislation gives local schools an option to train certain faculty and staff to combat an active shooter in school buildings.

He said then that the reaction to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., 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.

He filed the bill after receiving 60 calls from school administrators and teachers who asked him for help. The legislation will allow highly trained faculty and staff to carry a weapon under specific guidelines.

In addition to meeting annual training and qualifications standards, 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.”