NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After Rep. Chris Todd (R-Madison County) made a controversial comment about the Covenant shooter in a special session committee, Covenant families nonprofits were irate.
“It’s disgusting. It’s disgusting,” Covenant Families Action Fund member Mary Joyce said. “I made an audible gasp in the committee room because it was disgusting to even go there.”
While in committee, Todd said the attack would have been carried out regardless of the weapon involved. He was advocating for a bill he filed to allow anyone with an enhanced handgun carry permit to carry handguns inside schools.
“I don’t know what she was capable of with her bare hands. But people can use any kind of inanimate object as a weapon. If she hadn’t had a gun, she probably would have had a car. She had a car,” Todd said. “She probably would have driven over those kids when they went to recess. She would have found a way without a doubt.”
The comments elicited several shocked Covenant parents in the audience.
Tuesday, Todd doubled down on his comments.
“Folks tried to take it wrong and if you intend to be offended by what I or anybody else says, you’re going to be offended,” he said.
The concept is one Covenant families will have to face again once regular session resumes in January.
“Whatever vehicle that is to get us to the point where kids can be protected in these schools, that’s what I’m going to be supportive of,” Todd said. “If it means running this bill again, I certainly will do that.”
The bill allows people with an enhanced carry permit to bring handguns ‘while in any public pre-kindergarten through grade twelve school building or bus…school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field, or any other property owned, operated, or while in use by any public board of education.’
“Evil people are going to find a way to do their harm if they intend to,” Todd said. “The best way to counter that is to make sure that we have good people that have the ability to defend against an attack, whatever that attack might be.”
He’ll run into conservative obstacles, as even some very right-wing Republicans have issues with the bill.
“Anybody, at any time, could walk into our schools with a firearm, unchecked, unverified and really not knowing why they’re there – just to patrol the schools,” Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) said.
Cepicky was one of five Republicans who voted against it, joining Reps. John Gillespie (R-Memphis), Charlie Baum (R-Murfreesboro), John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) and Mark White (R-Memphis).
“Under Chairman Todd’s bill, if the Covenant shooter would’ve had an enhanced carry permit, they could have entered the Covenant school and been in that school, legally,” Cepicky said.
You can receive an enhanced carry permit in Tennessee by obtaining an 8-hour handgun safety course certificate.
Another issue Cepicky raised was over how law enforcement would be able to differentiate between an attacker and someone who decided to respond to a crisis, since, under Todd’s bill, that would be allowed.
“How does law enforcement look at friend or foe? How can they identify who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy when you have just random citizens running into a building,” Cepicky said. “You can see the chaos this would create.”
Todd said schools still have the power to do background checks.
“They could double check their credentials, make sure they are properly vetted according to what the bill’s guidelines are and make sure they have the right people on campus or at an event, if it’s a field trip, for example, or if they were going to a play,” he said.
But he did admit that as long as they have the credentials and the permit, schools could not prevent someone from entering the building if they wanted to.