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Bill to arm Tennessee teachers fails
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill that would arm some school teachers in Tennessee failed Tuesday after heated debate from state lawmakers, including several Republican gun rights advocates, who questioned whether it was the best way to protect students.

The measure was voted down in the House Education Administration and Planning Committee. Legislators also wondered whether governments could be held liable if there was an accident involving an armed teacher.

The bill was sponsored by Republican David Byrd, a former high school principal from Waynesboro who has spent the past several years working on the legislation. The measure would have allowed willing teachers and administrators to undergo training by certified private instructors to carry guns in schools where there are no school resource officers. Byrd's bill initially would have been limited to Pickett and Wayne counties but was amended to include the entire state.  Byrd said schools in his rural district were all in favor of the idea because they didn't have the money to pay for school resource officers.

The debate got testy at times during the committee hearing, with several fellow Republicans and gun rights advocates challenging the idea of arming teachers.

"To be honest with you, it feels like the bill's been put together on the back of a napkin and it's held together with bubble gum and duct tape at this time," said committee vice chairman Eddie Smith, a Republican from Knoxville. But Republican committee chairman Rep. Henry Brooks, also from Knoxville, cut him off.

"Excuse me, Chairman Smith," Brooks interjected. "Now we're going to go over this again. This is not a cheerleading session. Any more comments, I'm gonna have you removed from this room. Is that clear?"

Rep. Roger Kane, another Republican from Knoxville who is a former teacher and self-described advocate of the Second Amendment, said the bill also gave him pause.

Noting that teachers typically stay with students during a school lockdown prompted by a shooting, he wondered how even an armed teacher would confront a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon.

"A teacher with a handgun taking on an intruder with an AR-15 is bringing a slingshot to a bazooka festival," Kane said. "You can't win that competition."

Several of the lawmakers said they much preferred having trained police officers protecting students.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has objected to the bill. The governor put together a 17-member school-safety task force after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people. He also proposed adding $30 million to improve school safety across the state.