by John Harris
With respect to private K-12 schools, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-50-803 provides that the “the board or governing entity of each private K-12 school, or the chief administrative officer if the school does not have a board or governing entity, may establish a handgun carry policy for any property on which the school is located that is owned or operated by the school and for any building or structure located on the school property.” Thus, the school may create pretty much any policy that it wants. A school could allow any some staff, any staff, volunteers, parents, guests, etc., to carry a handgun on campus, open or concealed. There are only two limits on the school’s discretion. First, the policy can only allow handguns – no longarms. Second, to the extent that the policy allows handguns on school property, the individual allowed to carry a handgun must have the Tennessee “enhanced” handgun carry permit.
With respect to private schools of higher education, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-7-161 provides substantially the same authority to the individual or entity that governs the school. It also has the same to two limits on the school’s discretion as exist with respect to K-12 institutions. First, the policy can only allow handguns – no longarms. Second, to the extent that the policy allows handguns on school property, the individual allowed to carry a handgun must have the Tennessee “enhanced” handgun carry permit.
While these three options appear on their face to be limited to handguns (and for armed security shotguns), it is important to note that there are a number of firearms that are lawfully classified as “handguns” but which have the ability to shoot rifle calibers such as the AR-15 pistol or the AK style pistols.
Parents, grandparents and guests who support and finance private schools and particularly those who have students enrolled in private schools may want to inquire with these schools about whether they have adopted policies to allow responsible adults to possess firearms on campus and ask, if not, why not. Decisions about which private schools to attend and support may want to take that information into account.
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John Harris is the executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association.