Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic -- and Gun Safety
(CNSNews.com) - Maryland may well become the first state in the nation to require gun safety classes for public school students. The House of Delegates passed the bill Thursday; the state Senate has passed similar legislation; and Gov. Parris Glendening said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
But first, a House-Senate conference committee will have to reconcile the two bills. Published reports said the state board of education would write guidelines for the gun safety program, but local school boards would decide what programs to teach and how.
The House bill said school systems could use programs developed by the National Rifle Association or by gun control groups, or they could come up with their own programs. The Washington Post quotes one opponent of the gun safety plan, Del. Brian Moe (D-Prince Georges County) as saying that it's not fair to require schools to add another element to their lesson plans without giving them the money to do it. Also, groups on both sides of the gun issue have expressed concern about how the lessons might be slanted.
The Gun Owners of America like the idea, according to spokesman Erich Pratt.
"We certainly, heartily endorse this type of legislation. Firearms are used two-and-a-half million times a year in self-defense in this country. So, we do think this is an important subject area for kids to certainly learn about the positive uses of firearms and how to correctly handle them in a safe manner," said Pratt.
The National Rifle Association is enthusiastic about the idea as well, according to spokesman Greg Costa.
"The NRA commends [Maryland] House Speaker [Casper] Taylor for tirelessly fighting to preserve local control when it comes to teaching kids firearms safety and responsibility. It also marks a victory against organizations like Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, who attempted to hijack this legislation in favor of anti-gun rights programs. H.B. 791 puts gun-safety where it should be in the hands of the local school boards, not the state," Costa said in a statement.
Costa added, "Counties will be able to select the best program for their community and culture to ensure that children are safer than ever around firearms. This bill will also give rural counties the option to teach hunter safety education for teenagers grades 7-12."
Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment.
The National Education Association had no comment and referred calls to the NEA's Maryland affiliate, the Maryland State Teachers Association. MSTA said it would not have any comment until the bill is finalized, according to spokesperson Lissa Brown.