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Gun safety instruction, Indiana, 1956. (Image: Grey Villet, The LIFE Picture Collection - Getty Images)
Wisconsin lawmakers propose bill to allow high schools to teach firearm safety to students.
School firearm safety course bill proposed by Wisconsin lawmakers
AB-427, proposed by Wisconsin Republican lawmakers, will direct the Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction to develop “a comprehensive firearm education course to be offered as an elective to high school pupils”. While the bill permits students to receive safety instruction with real firearms, the bill specifically prohibits the use of live ammunition.
The bill was introduced in response to an increase in the popularity of trapshooting, where participants shoot clay targets flung into the air by a mechanical device. Trapshooting is one of Wisconsin’s fastest-growing sports, inspiring enthusiastic high school competition around the state.
Proposed course curriculum
Under the bill, schools offering a firearm safety course would focus on two primary topics:
1. The different types and mechanics of firearms.
2. Principles of firearms safety, including:
(a) The location of safety devices on different types of firearms.
(b) How to engage a safety device on a firearm and know whether a safety device on a firearm is engaged.
(c) How to safely carry a firearm.
(d) How to safely transport a firearm.
Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) is one of the bill’s sponsors and explained the reasoning behind the bill. “This is just an opportunity at education about something that is definitely legal and constitutional.” He also noted the reason why live ammunition would not be used in the class, “We want to make sure that the opportunities are there for it to be done safety.”
The bill requires the course to be developed in partnership with either Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, a law enforcement agency, an organization that specializes in firearms safety, or an organization that certifies firearms instructors. Individual school districts would not be required to offer the course, however, those that do so must utilize only verified firearm safety instructors.
Division along political party lines
Predictably, anti-gun lawmakers oppose the bill. Rep. Sondy Pope, (D-Mt. Horeb), citing teen suicide statistics, argued, “Do we really need to introduce more weapons to these kids?” With typical liberal irrationality, Pope seemed to suggest that, by teaching students proper firearm safety and respect for guns, they would somehow become more careless, dangerous, and prone to suicide.
Rep. Kleefisch, however, noted that, by teaching students about gun safety, the students would actually become safer, more responsible citizens. “You take some of the mystery away,” said Kleefisch, “and you focus on the reason that these mechanical devices are used for positive, not for negative, [purposes].” Kleefisch added, “There’s no harm in understanding the way to use something safely and effectively.”
School firearm safety instruction not a new idea
Teaching firearm safety in school is not a new idea. In fact, most adults today who attended public school in the 1950s or 1960s likely received some form of firearm safety instruction while in school. Elementary school children were introduced to firearms and taught to see them as a tool of law enforcement and public safety. High school students participated in school “gun clubs” and team shooting events.
Firearm instruction within public school swelled in the mid-1960s and into the 1970s, encouraged by municipal governments and supported by federal policies, largely as a result of conflicts in south-east Asia. By instructing America’s youth in the proper use of firearms, lawmakers reasoned, America’s young men and women would be better prepared to defend themselves in future conflicts. This ulterior motive, while self-serving from a government perspective, had the benefit of reducing accidental firearm injuries at home.
Contrary to Rep. Sondy Pope’s fears, teaching students about firearm safety does not put teens at greater risk for gun related injuries or death. In fact, decades of research has proved that increased firearm safety education has the opposite effect. When properly instructed in firearm safety, children are far less likely to “play” with a loaded gun at home, far less likely to point a gun at their peers, and far less likely to be injured by a gun while engaged in shooting sports.
That increased instruction should result in fewer accidents comes as no surprise to driver’s education teachers. When students began to receive safe driving instruction in public schools, teen automobile accidents and deaths plummeted.
The same has always been true of firearm safety instruction.Ready to get involved?
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Keywords: AB-427, firearm safety course, Joel Kleefisch, Sondy Pope, Wisconsin lawmakers.