Politicians on both sides of the aisle in Oregon want first graders to attend gun safety classes in their schools.
Senate Bill 801 was introduced this year. Had the bill passed, it would have allowed public school districts and public charter schools to offer an annual 30-minute firearm safety and accident prevention class to first-grade students.
The curriculum for the class would have to include three subjects:
- The proper steps for a child to take upon encountering an unsecured firearm;
- The differences between video game violence and real-life violence; and
- The dangers of confusing toy guns and real guns.
The classes would have to be taught by a teacher, administrator, law enforcement officer or first responder. At no time during the class could real firearms or live ammunition be used.
Schools would be required to give written or electronic notice of the class offering to parents and guardians at least seven days in advance and provide an option for families to opt out of taking the class.
“Whether you agree with firearm ownership or not, don’t think for a second that your kids can’t come into contact somewhere else, ” said Derek LeBlanc, president of the Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation. “We talk about helmets, stranger danger, the D.A.R.E. program, water safety, anti-bullying . . . There’s more that needs to be done when it comes to education with firearms.”
One of the reasons given for strong bi-partisan support of the bill is specific language that requires the class to be non-political. The bill specifically states that the instructor “may not encourage or discourage possession or ownership of firearms.”
The Salem Statesman Journal reports the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that gun-related violence is the third leading cause of death for kids aged 1 to 17, beat out only by car crashes in terms of injury-related deaths. The latest national data shows 74 children ages 14 years and younger died of an accidental discharge of firearms in 2016. That number jumps to 195 if you include 15 to 24-year-olds.
A public hearing was held on the bill. The Salem Statesman Journal reports that dozens of people gave testimony at the hearing, many of whom were concerned about what could happen if a child comes across a gun and doesn’t know what to do.
“Allowing the opportunity for education classes in schools would help kids understand the importance of not touching firearms and getting an adult,” wrote parent Maria Sandusky in her testimony, “especially when they may not get that education at home.”
The bill is not expected to pass this session due to procedural deadlines, but supporters of the bill promise that they’ll be back.
“We’ve started a debate and a dialogue,” Derek LeBlanc said. “Our mantra is ‘zero firearm accidents is the only acceptable goal.’ Hopefully we can go forward and keep helping more kids.”
There are currently no further proceedings related to the bill scheduled for the current legislative session.