Here’s more evidence that our civilization is eroding like limestone in an acid rain: when we hear about guns and schools, we assume the worst. A mass shooting. A disturbed youth. A community in shock.
I’m here to tell you about a different sort of outcome when guns are combined with educational facilities. Students with a working knowledge of the awesome power of firearms. Young shooters with respect for the inalienable laws of gun safety. Classrooms used as venues to discuss life, death, outdoor safety, and the requirement to wear 400 square inches of hunter orange when rifle hunting here in Montana.
It’s late winter, the season that Hunter Education classes spring up around the nation. Here in my hometown of Glasgow, Montana, we are fortunate to be able to teach Hunter Education courses in our public schools. As I talk to fellow Hunter Ed instructors around the state and nation, I get the sense that we are the vast exception. Even here in Glasgow, we weren’t always welcome to teach firearms safety in the schools. We’ve held classes in libraries, the basements of bars, and other public (and quasi-public) facilities.
Then we got a bright green light from the principal of the middle school. Mike Zoanni not only tolerates Hunter Education in his facility, he encourages it. His perspective is the same as mine: The students in Hunter Ed are the same students who go to his school. What better, more supportive place to learn about how to handle guns responsibly than the very building where they learn about mathematics, literature, science and the unbridgeable chasm between girls and boys.
We Hunter Ed instructors try to respect our host. We don’t tolerate any sort of horseplay or inattention when it comes to gun handling. We teach, reinforce and insist on responsible firearms safety. We try to leave our classroom in better shape than the way we found it.
It’s an unfortunate reality of modern life that guns will be used for fell purposes. But it’s the hope of us Hunter Ed instructors that by normalizing the presence of firearms in public schools, and insisting on their responsible use, we can help reduce the chance that a guns-in-schools story in our community has a tragic ending.