Last week House Bill 1419 received bi-partisan support when it passed the House with a vote of 86-6. The bill was sponsored by House Minority Leader Corey Mock (D – District 18) and, if signed into law, would authorize the North Dakota Game & Fish Director to establish a "firearm safety program" to be made available to elementary and secondary schools.
I’m somewhat surprised at not only the bipartisanship, but by how wide a margin this bill passed the House. Unfortunately, in our society today the issue of guns has become hotly debated and is often viewed negatively by segments of the public. Put the issue of guns and schools together and I would have thought there would be a bit more push back. I think it’s a good sign there wasn’t from that standpoint.
Even if HB 1419 becomes law, it will still remain to be seen how many school districts will take advantage of such a program, since it is optional. But what are the potential benefits to having such a program offered to our schools?
First, is the importance of kids learning how to properly handle firearms. With the Game & Fish Department recently switching to non-functioning firearms for their classes, the advantage of a program such as this is that it’s safe. So, if the program is ran similar to existing Hunter’s Safety Programs, kids will have valuable experience with non-functioning firearms prior to handling anything that could fire a live round.
Second, the decline in hunter recruitment has been an on-going issue for a while now. And while it is likely not the intent of this bill, I could see where such a program could spark interest in new hunters where it had not been before.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, I would hope that such a program could help remove the stigma relating to the idea of guns and schools.
When I was growing up, it was not uncommon for students in our high schools to hunt before and after school. Some of the guys had gun racks in their pickups– with the guns in them. Those older than me remember the days when a boy would not only hunt before school, but he could ask the principal to hold his shotgun for him until school was out. I’ve even heard some of the older generation talk about keeping them in their lockers.
Any issues there are in society in relation to guns will not be solved by gun control or by attaching a stigma to the issue in relation to kids and guns. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The best thing we can do for our young people is to provide opportunities for them to learn firearm safety while recognizing that the ultimate say over the issue will rest with the parents.
The one question I would have in all of this is whether taxpayers should fund the effort to educate kids on firearm safety? Or is that something that is better left to the private sector? As much as I like the idea of the program, and see it’s benefits, I must admit that I lean towards the latter.