Who says bipartisanship is dead?
In a surprising move from the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly, both the House and the Senate passed a bill that will allow public schools to offer a hunter’s education course as part of their curriculum. The bill passed both chambers nearly unanimously, with only state Sen. Ann Gillespie voting “no” among all legislators who cast votes.
“Hunting in Illinois is still very popular, and students can learn about hunting as a sport. Hunters have respect for guns,” Democratic state Rep. Monica Bristow told Fox News, underscoring that the legislation stirred no opposition. “If people have to do the education course to obtain a hunting license anyway, why not be able to do this in school?”
Illinois Republican Sen. Jason Plummer also noted how hunter’s ed can teach students proper respect for firearms.
“Students who are exposed to lessons in hunting safety have a greater chance of respecting firearms and using them properly for the rest of their lives,” he told Fox. “As the law is shifting to emphasize the importance of safe handling, adopting legislation like this could make for an accessible path for students to learn these methods in-depth, early on in their lives.”
The move comes as states around the country struggle to encourage young people to hunt in an increasingly urbanized and technological society. The drop in the number of hunters has resulted in a drop in funding for state wildlife agencies, as a large percentage of the money for conservation comes via hunting licenses and excise taxes on guns, ammunition, and fishing equipment.
The new Illinois bill lets school districts decide whether they want to implement the curriculum being developed by the state’s Board of Education. Lawmakers have said that no guns or ammunition will be allowed in the classroom.
NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide told Fox that he’s cautiously optimistic and will be interested to see what the Board of Education decides.
“While we need to see what sort of guidelines the state Board of Education sets, it’s encouraging to see Illinois agree to provide courses that teach the safe and responsible use of firearms. Hopefully this will serve as a roadmap for other states that fail to provide such valuable lessons to our youth.”
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Del Wilber, an Illinois-based hunter, firearms instructor, and former police officer, told Fox that the course might help remove the stigma surrounding guns in some of Illinois’ more violent districts.
“Sadly, young people in Chicago and other inner-city areas simply aren’t exposed to guns for anything other than using them in crimes,” he said. “But hunting has been a part of life in rural Illinois. It isn’t about just killing poor animals; it is also an integral part of wildlife control.”
While it seems unlikely that inner-city school districts will choose to implement a hunter’s ed course, the bill may help reenergize a generation of potential hunters in rural areas who are more interested in video games than exploring the outdoors.