Is it Time for Firearms Safety Classes to be Taught in Public Schools?

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat asked readers in a late-April column: Why not teach gun safety in public schools? The result, he writes in a May 1 column, was "people across the political spectrum had fainting spells."

Westneat wrote that gunowners simply dismissed him as being naive for asking such a question. Surely, many said, the left-wingers in the educational system would never endorse a program that doesn't demonize guns and alienate gun-owners.

Not surprisingly, he wrote, anti-gunners wanted to light their hair on fire in apoplectic outrage at such a suggestion. Surely, they said, it is apparently better to know nothing about firearms -- even if what you don't know can kill you.

"Which is the same type of argument," Westneat writes, "the 'abstinence-only' crowd uses -- that sex-ed promotes more sex."

And then there were the clueless, such as reader Judy Thomas, who wrote: "The idea that firearm education is the answer is simply a non-starter. If anybody should know gun safety it is the police, and they have a poor record of keeping their firearms away from even their own children."

But Westneat asks a good question.

In most states, firearms education is a local school board option. Few offer it to students, even though the NRA has developed an easily-taught, inexpensive curriculum that has significantly reduced gun-related accidents among young children in school districts where it has been taught.

Right now, only Virginia requires local school districts to offer firearms safety education programs. Since 2010, Wisconsin, Oregon, and New York state Legislatures have proposed bills that would have made NRA's Eddie Eagle program a mandatory part of the school curriculum. None of the bills were successful.

Thanks to the awareness generated by Westneat's column, some in Washington state are asking why firearms safety education is not offered by local school districts -- including the liberal, Democratic and teachers-union-endorsed head of the state Senate Education Committee, Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell.

"I'm not a gun person, but guns are here to stay and you can't prohibit them," she told Westneat. "Shouldn't our kids know what to do when they see one?"

McAuliffe has introduced a resolution for the state to promote the use of the NRA's Gun Safety Program in schools.

"Maybe this won't go anywhere," Westneat writes. "But at least, for once, not everyone's locked into their usual partisan positions."