High School Gun Safety Class Gaining Ground In Utah Legislature

High School Gun Safety Class Gaining Ground In Utah Legislature
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

The phrase “gun safety” means something entirely different depending on your view of the Second Amendment. If you’re a supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, gun safety is all about education and training. If, on the other hand, you’re a gun control advocate, gun safety means “don’t own a gun.”

Thankfully, lawmakers in Utah have the first definition in mind, and on Tuesday a key House committee approved a measure that would establish a nine-week long elective class teaching real gun safety to high school students.

HB258 would create a pilot program to provide a half-semester gun safety class for students in grades 9-12. The bill would require school districts chosen by the Utah Board of Education to contract with training providers to supply materials and curriculum for the program.

“I think it’s important that our school kids have an opportunity to learn about firearm safety,” bill sponsor Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City, told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The course would be part of physical education and carry a half-credit. It would be elective for students who want the training, with parents able to prohibit their kids from taking it, Shipp said. During the program, students could only use replica, non-operating firearms at school.

I think this is a fantastic idea, and I wish more states had programs like this in place. As Shipp says, while some students may learn about how to be safe and responsible with a firearm at home, not everyone grows up in a gun-owning family, even in a state as Second Amendment-friendly as Utah.

“If you haven’t grown up in a family that does hunting or shooting, you don’t learn proper safety of firearms and many times these kids run into firearms — whether they’re at a friend’s home or wherever they are,” Shipp said.

He said it’s important for kids to understand the Second Amendment and to learn state laws governing firearms.

“It also has suicide prevention involved in there, because if somebody comes upon a firearm not understanding how to safely handle it, that could create a problem with potentially having accidents and so forth,” Shipp said.

Through the course, Shipp said the Division of Wildlife Resources would be able to discuss hunter safety requirements with students, who could visit a shooting range and complete firearm safety training and the shooting section of the hunter’s safety program.

Of course even in Utah there are some who are opposed to the idea. Unsurprisingly, it’s the state’s teacher’s union that has been the most vocal in dismissing the proposal.

Sara Jones, with the Utah Educators Association, said the group is concerned that the bill “creates a very detailed, very prescriptive curriculum for an elective course.”

She said gun safety courses are better handled on the local level than through the Legislature, as school districts know the needs of their communities.

Do you think Jones has that same philosophy when it comes to, say, history curriculum? The reason why the proposed course already has a detailed outline about curriculum is so that folks know exactly what’s going to be taught. I guarantee that if Shipp had been vague about what students would be learning, gun control activists would be screaming about gun nuts indoctrinating innocent schoolkids.

Schools also prohibit replica weapons, Jones noted. She also expressed concern about a new program during the pandemic.

“Is this really a year for a pilot program for one more expectation for one more thing to be placed on schools and educators this year?” Jones asked.

Barbara Gentry, a board member on the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, said those who aren’t trained as educators shouldn’t be able to teach something as “sensitive” as firearm safety.

You know that gun control activists don’t have a good argument when their chief objection is that firearm instructors shouldn’t be the ones to teach gun safety to high school students.

It’s an absurd position, but I guess it makes sense if you believe the real definition of gun safety is “don’t own a gun.” Of course, Barbara Gentry also believes that “gun violence prevention” equates to more gun control, so I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised by her objections to a true gun safety course.

It just goes to show that for activists like Gentry, gun safety and even preventing gun violence really isn’t the goal. The aim is to prevent legal gun ownership, because they believe that once our Second Amendment rights have been turned into a privilege that criminals will magically be unable to illegally acquire and use a gun in an act of violence.

I hope this bill can make it to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk. It’s not as high-profile as the Constitutional Carry bill he just signed into law, but it would be a huge benefit in terms of teaching real gun safety and responsibility to the next generation of gun owners.


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