Republican defends permitted guns into security-short schools
A woman saying she was concerned about “guns in schools” state legislation, House Bill 0084, was present “on behalf of my three daughters; I have a fourth-grader, a second-grader and a kindergartener in Farragut schools.”
Opposed to the bill, which would allow permitted gun owners to carry weapons in state kindergarten through 12th-grade public schools, the mother’s plea was heard by state Rep. Jason Zachary [R-District 14 including Farragut] during a “town meeting” with about 40 constituents.
“This year at the Farragut schools we’ve had two lockdowns because of outside situations” including “a bank robbery,” she added during the gathering Thursday night, March 9, in Knox County Sheriff’s Office West Precinct, Turkey Creek.
The woman then displayed a letter written by her second-grade daughter stating “how scared she was … sitting in the dark for an hour because they didn’t know what was going on” during a lockdown.
“I see that if we allow guns in our schools, that lockdowns are going to increase and our kids are going to go to school scared,” she added. “And the environment for our teachers is not going to be healthy.”
Zachary said this bill “will not get out of subcommittee.”
However, Zachary then said he sponsored a bill “that died” that would allow such permit holders to carry “in any building where armed security and metal detectors weren’t present.”
Moreover, Zachary said, “Since 1950, 98 percent of all mass shootings where at least three people have been killed occurred in gun-free zones.”
Farragut’s state rep then rattled off training requirements for permit holders while stating that police officers “commit 103 crimes for every 100,000 police officers. Permit holders in this country commit 22 crimes for every 100,000 permit holders.”
Zachary then said to the Farragut schools mother, “The person with ill intent who is going to go in your daughter’s school is going to carry that blasted weapon in no matter if there’s a [warning] sticker there or not.
“And if there’s not an officer there, and there’s a dad or mom who is a permit holder who is concealed carrying in that school, I support him or her being in that school,” he added.
A “hand-raising” poll of the roughly 40 on hand showed about 75 percent favored “permit holders to be able to carry anywhere,” as Zachary defined the “poll” question.
With the state Department of Revenue imposing a 1.125 percent fee on returning Sales Tax dollars to Farragut and all municipalities, House Bill 1317 sought to eliminate that fee “just for Knox County” municipalities, Zachary said.
“John Schoonmaker [Knox County Fifth District Commis-sioner] and I worked on this one. We worked with the town of Farragut. We tried and tried,” Zachary added about the bill dying in committee.
“We have to pay the state to get our money back.”
“Last year it cost the town of Farragut $142,000,” Schoonmaker said. “It cost Knox County just shy of $500,000,” adding the state’s process of sending back the money is no more than “a push of a button.”
“… We’re going to work on it next year,” Schoonmaker added.
Though not in Zachary’s district, a couple on hand for the meeting — whose daughter was killed in a traffic accident — credited Zachary for helping them in the moments following that tragedy.
They also spoke about the frustration of dealing with TDOT, seeking to make the ends of guardrail terminals safer in an emotional address to Zachary.
“We paid with our daughter’s life and I literally got a bill from TDOT,” the late daughter's father said while trying to hold back tears. “… Ninety-six people have died when they hit the end of a guardrail terminal in the state of Tennessee since 2014. Six people have had a guardrail penetrate the vehicle and cause impalement or decapitation or partial decapitation.”
Zachary said he supports efforts to make terminal ends safer. “You guys have been extremely helpful,” the father said. State Rep. “Jimmy [Matlock] has been very helpful too,” the father added about his District 21 rep [Loudon and Monroe counties], a Republican and Farragut businessman.
Zachary and the gathering:
• also discussed the Hall Tax.
• also talked about private school vouchers going to disadvantaged students. Two teachers spoke against vouchers saying they drain resources from public schools and aren’t proven to help the targeted students.
Zachary maintained his support for such vouchers.