MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam says it’s too soon to say whether Tennessee should require an armed police presence in every school in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting that left 20 students and six teachers dead.
Meanwhile, fellow Republican Rep. Joe Carr of Murfreesboro called a press conference Wednesday to announce he will pursue legislation to make it a crime in Tennessee for federal agents to enforce any effort to ban firearms or ammunition.
Carr said the measure would also require the state’s attorney general to defend any Tennessean prosecuted for violating the potential federal gun violations.
“We’re tired of political antics, cheap props of using children as bait to gin up emotional attachment for an issue that quite honestly doesn’t solve the problem,” Carr said.
Haslam’s office had not yet seen the legislation and had no immediate comment, a spokesman said.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester condemned the measure as “self-serving” for Carr, who is exploring a challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais next year.
“In Tennessee, we are facing real problems with gun violence, poverty and persistent joblessness,” he said. “We don’t need Carr’s extreme sideshow.”
Carr’s bill was unveiled after President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced the most sweeping proposals for curbing gun violence in two decades, including universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Asked whether his bill would call on state troopers to arrest their federal counterparts, Carr said: “They would have the authority to do so, and that would be in the intent of the bill.”
Carr said the president’s plan wouldn’t prevent future shootings and instead called for more armed guards to be posted at schools.
Haslam has called for a safety conference hosted by the state Education Department on Jan. 29. He told reporters earlier in the week that school security issues will require a nuanced approach.
“If I had the ultimate answer I would have come forth with it a long time ago,” Haslam said. “I honestly do think it’s a multifaceted issue.”
But the Republican governor said he has concerns over the proposals to require armed officers at every school in the state. About half the schools have trained officers posted.
“We’re trying to look at if that has made a difference, what’s the cost?” he said. “Most of those are being paid by local governments. Can they do that everywhere? Are there different rules around the schools that we need to look at?”
“It’s too early to say any of that because I couldn’t tell you what the additional cost would be in Tennessee at this point in time, or if that’s the right way to spend that amount of money,” he said.
But the governor said he rules out support for calls to allow teachers and administrators with handgun carry permits to be armed in schools.
“I have a daughter who’s a second-grade teacher, and I would have a hard time picturing her carrying to school,” Haslam said.
“What if one school has five people licensed to carry and want to, and another school has zero,” he said. “Are we going to make somebody?”
Haslam planned to visit an elementary school in Memphis on Thursday, though a spokesman said he wasn’t visiting specifically to examine safety issues.