Should kids be learning gun safety in school?

AP Photo/Ted Jackson

The answer to that question, at least for me, is whether or not we’re talking about real gun safety or “gun safety” as it’s defined by anti-gun organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety. And while most of the debates about what our kids are learning in school has centered around Critical Race Theory and sexually explicit materials in school libraries, there’s also a surprising amount of discussion about kids and guns taking place in school districts around the country.

We reported last week, for instance, on a petition drive at Greenwich High School in support of universal background checks; part of the school’s “Say Something Week,” a program put together by the gun control group Sandy Hook Promise that’s supposed to help students be aware of the warning signs of troubled individuals and the importance of telling someone who can do something about it when they hear of any threats to student safety. Unfortunately, that message is undercut by the promotion of gun control laws that have nothing to do with either seeing something or saying something. On Friday afternoon it looked like the petition was going to be pulled, but it turns out students were able to sign their name in exchange for a piece of candy today.

According to a school district spokesman, the petition is the same one that’s offered up on the Sandy Hook Promise website. The district maintains, however, that the petition is a student-led initiative from the Roots and Shoots club and not something that’s coming from the district itself, and that if, say, the Young Republicans wanted to hold a petition drive in support of a Second Amendment issue that would be fine as well. Frankly, I’d love to see that happen. Maybe a petition calling on Congress to recognize the unenforceable nature of background checks on private sales of firearms?

In Kansas, meanwhile, Democrats are angry that Republicans held a hearing on a bill mandating the use of Eddie Eagle and hunter education materials in any gun safety course taught in the state’s public schools days after an 18-year old student shot a teacher and a school resource officer after he was pulled from class over a tip that he had a gun on him. Oddly, while Democrats usually say that “we can’t wait” to pass gun control after a high-profile shooting, this time around they were insistent that Republicans hold off on the hearing.

A hearing on the bill in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee was initially cancelled after the shooting. Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, told reporters it was “tone deaf” to proceed with the rescheduled meeting Monday.

“When it was mentioned that the bill had been rescheduled, a number of people were very shocked, honestly,” she said. “To think: ‘OK, we aren’t even past what just happened. And now, you know, we had this bill that was being pushed through the Legislature.'”

Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, chair of the committee, defended the decision to have a hearing on the matter.

“I don’t get the comments,” he said. “It is just about safety, and it is a good bill.”

 So good, in fact, that the Kansas legislature passed an almost identical bill last year, which unfortunately was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

It’s important to note that while the legislation requires the state Board of Education to use Eddie Eagle and the state’s hunter education course as the basis for any gun safety curriculum (with Eddie Eagle being used for elementary school students and hunter ed used for older kids), the bill does not require school districts themselves to teach the material itself. Rather than an attempt to beat pro-gun talking points into the heads of students this seems to be about keeping politics out of the curriculum. I mean, while the NRA may be responsible for Eddie Eagle, there’s A) nothing political about “Stop, don’t touch, run away, tell a grownup” and B) there’s no NRA branding on Eddie Eagle, so it’s not about trying to covertly recruit elementary school kids to become 2A activists in the cafetorium.

As we’ve seen though, anti-gun activists can be creative, and they can use student groups just as easily as they can use teachers unions. Blocking anti-gun activists from developing curriculum for the classroom may stop them from using the front door, but they can always do what they’re in Greenwich this week and crawl in through the window of student clubs and their faculty advisors.

The Supreme Court has long held that students have the right to protest and advocate for causes on campus as long as its not disruptive, so while we might want to limit schools to a non-partisan and age appropriate guide to being safe and responsible around firearms, the simple truth is that our First Amendment freedoms and the anti-gun lobby’s use of student activists ensures that some kids are already getting a fair dose of “gunsense” on campus, whether they or their parents like it or not.