Should schools be required to address gun safety?


What would you do?
Walking down the street in one of our small Valley towns, you come across a handgun laying on the sidewalk. You don’t have a cell phone on you, and no one is out and about except for several children a block away.
Maybe a more important question: What would your child do if he was the one who found the gun while with his friends? Would curiosity win over logic? Would an everyday playdate turn into yet another tragic statistic?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 32,351 gun-related deaths in 2011. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that there were 3,005 deaths due to fire across the country in the same year. Out of an estimated 1,389,500 fires in 2011.
Schools have, for better or worse, become a melting pot of safety-based initiatives. Where else can you address a vast majority of young people and help teach them the fundamentals of various safety situations?
Yet, for all the programs our students receive on fire safety, drug and alcohol awareness, stranger-danger, sexual education, drivers education, general home safety tips though home economics, etc. — there is nothing in our schools anymore about general gun safety. It’s assumed that some kids will get that extracurricularly through a hunter education program at some point.
Once upon a time, those hunter education programs — conducted via the Pennsylvania Game Commission — were held in our schools and a large number of our children took those classes because they were convenient.
Yes, we are a rural population. Yes, there is a large population of multi-generational hunters in our region, but that doesn’t mean every child has the basics he/she needs to be safe around a firearm. Even the best hunters make mistakes — and sometimes the youngsters who are with them learn those bad habits and pass them along. And, perhaps surprising to some, there are a lot of families around here that don’t hunt at all.
A few states have recently starting pushing legislation what would mandate gun safety in public schools — the most recent South Carolina, where there are two bills on the table.
The issue with this initiative is that the NRA is closely involved with the proposed legislation — part of which would require Second Amendment education — which screams more of political positioning than something geared toward keeping our kids safe.
While the NRA lobby and some of its politics represent the extreme on one side, we have zero-tolerance gun advocates on the other. These are the ones who point towards the tragedies at Sandy Hook and Columbine and preach that guns have no place being in our schools. With that, even general gun safety courses become taboo in today’s culture.
Unfortunately, as the pendulum swings widely to these two extremes, our children and their safety are held hostage in the middle.
What we need is general gun safety for all kids at a certain age level. Something that outlines what to do in situations such as the one I mentioned earlier and covering the fundamentals of gun safety. Something that isn’t held back by politics on either side, but is focused on the child and his family.
And it needs to be mandatory for all students — not an elective, unless you can guarantee that only the students who take the elective gun safety class will be the ones who will cross paths with a firearm.
The key needs to be education. Sharing information so that our children will know how to react when it counts.
As longtime gun safety educator Fred Gast, of Watsontown, said recently on this topic: “The more you are informed about any subject, the more likely you are to approach that subject from a rational angle instead of an emotional one.”

~ by zaktansky on February 15, 2015.

One Response to “Should schools be required to address gun safety?”

  1. I saw a program on TV where children who had been taught by their parents about what to do if they found a gun where placed in a playroom with a one way viewing window and watched as they discovered a gun in the room. The parents were shocked at how they picked it up, played with it, etc. even though taught not to touch it. Children who are taught stranger safety rules also “forget” them if not constantly reinforced. We who live in less rural hunting communities still have to worry about guns. You never know when your chlld might be playing in a home where a parent keeps a gun for protection. All children should know safety rules, and since parents who do not have guns often forget to consider that they are still sometimes near their children, schools should educate the kids and their parents as well.

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