Firearm Safety Courses in Middle Schools - Yes or No?

Middle schools in two different districts in rural Iowa have announced that they will begin mandatory firearms safety courses this spring. These courses will focus on how to safely handle firearms, what to do if you encounter them, and will apparently address the concern the firearm-related violence at schools. (I’ve included the links to some of the stories below)

The superintendent for the North Butler and Clarksville school districts, Joel Butler, responded by saying: “As a school administrator my first responsibility is to provide a safe learning environment for the students and staff in both of the school districts that I serve… I believe that it is the job of our schools to educate our children to meet the needs of our communities… It is not a political issue. Plain and simple, our job is to educate our children - whatever the topic.”

Of course, parents will have the option to opt out of these courses (although Mr. Butler also points out that as of now no parents have opted out of this course) for their children, but having this kind of education in schools has received some backlash. Kyleanne Hunter, vice president for programs at the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, said this: “Middle schoolers haven’t developed the cognitive capacity of an adult to rationally understand the risk of firearms, and they likely can’t tell the difference between having a loaded and unloaded gun.” I would, respectfully, disagree with Ms. Hunter because I have personally experienced dozens of children even younger than middle-school-age be able to safely and responsibly handle and use firearms.

I believe the point isn’t whether parents will ever own a firearm and have one in their home, the point is to teach our kids how to safely respond to the situation should they ever encounter a gun, whether it is at a friends house, finding one in a field somewhere, or any other scenario where a child could be exposed to one. Our schools address other areas where health and safety is concerned, things like drugs, sex, gang violence, etc… We tell our kids not to play with fire, not to drink the chemicals under the sink, not to run with scissors, how to drive responsibly. We teach our kids about things that could be potentially harmful so as to protect them. Educating kids about danger makes it safer for them to know what to avoid or how to handle different situations. Why should firearms be any different? In this particular instance, it is my opinion that ignorance is more dangerous than education. Curiousity will always be there, especially in a generation where children are surrounded by “guns”. They play video games where they are shooting guns and collecting different types of guns. They watch movies where the heroes (and the bad guys) all have guns. They have water guns, hose guns, rubber band guns, Nerf guns, Airsoft guns, paintball guns - and with all of those “guns” it is ok for them to pick up and point them at each other - doesn’t it make sense to teach them that it is NEVER ok to do that with a real gun? If your teenager is babysitting and the little tyke they’re watching comes out with a gun they found, shouldn’t your teenager know how to safely handle that? If your kid is at a friend’s house and their buddy wants to show them “something cool”, shouldn’t they know the seriousness of that situation and know what to do? These examples might be hypothetical, but unfortunately the stories of kids finding guns and accidentally hurting either themselves or others are many. Stories that might have had a different outcome if the child had known how to safely handle (or safely NOT handle) the firearm.

Ignorance is not always bliss, especially when it comes to the safety of our children.

While I agree that there are differences between a rural school and an urban, metropolitan school, I can’t help but think about all the ways a firearm safety course could help prevent not only firearm-related accidents, but also potentially help in the dreaded event of gun violence.

I would welcome thoughts and comments about this subject, especially from other parents. Do you think that a firearm safety course offered through our schools would be beneficial or harmful, and why?