Lawmaker Proposes Firearm Education in Public Schools

State Representative Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin) introduced a bill Thursday that would have the Department of Public Instruction develop a firearm course for Wisconsin High school students. In an era of gun-free school zones and zero tolerance policies that punish students for liking pictures of guns on Instagram, the notion of firearm training in schools likely will be anathema to many in the education establishment.  But Skowronski says his “Firearm Education Bill” would address a need:

“As more and more students get involved in clay target and action shooting clubs and associations while in school, it’s important to ensure that these students become more responsible in understanding firearm safety and mechanics.” Rep. Skowronski said.

In fact, (long-barrel) guns weren’t always considered antithetical to public education. John Lott Jr., quoted by Charles C.W. Cooke in National Review:

It was common for schools to have shooting clubs. Even in New York City, virtually every public high school had a shooting club up until 1969. It was common for high school students to take their guns with them to school on the subways in the morning and turn them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach so the heavy guns would simply be out of the way. After school, students would pick up their guns when it was time for practice

Cooke says guns were nearly omnipresent in rural schools:

Up until the ’70s, especially in rural areas, it was commonplace to see kids entering and leaving their school campuses with rifle bags slung lazily over their backs. Guns were left in school lockers, and rifles and shotguns were routinely seen in high-school parking lots, hanging in the rear windows of pickup trucks. A good friend of mine is from North Dakota. His father was telling me recently that in the late 1960s he would hunt before school and then take his rifle — and his bloodstained kills — to school to show his teachers. He and his friends would compare their shooting techniques in the school grounds. Nobody batted an eyelid. In North Dakota, school shootings were non-existent; in the country at large, they were extremely rare.

In 2013, as America was reeling from a series of mass shootings, Time-Life republished portions and photos from a 1956 Life article about gun safety education in Indiana public schools. The program was initiated to deal with accidental gun deaths of children. The photos of very young school children handling firearms in the classroom stand in stark contrast to the education mindset on guns today.

It was after school shootings became more frequent in the mid-1990’s that school officials decided their buildings were no place for guns. Skowronski’s bill requires the Department of Public Instruction to work with organizations to develop a curriculum focused on firearm mechanics and firearm safety. The class would be completely optional for students, and no school would be required to implement the class. Classes would be taught by trained professionals certified by recognized organizations and no live ammunition would be allowed in the classroom.

“I hope that parents and students who are interested in becoming more responsible and comfortable around firearm would urge their school districts and school boards to support firearm education classes.  Wisconsin is nationally known for successful preps shooting sports. I hope this bill will give interested students the knowledge in gun safety and become more involved in clay target and action shooting clubs.” Skowronski said.

A spokesman in Skowronski’s office said the bill was patterned after one in North Carolina. The bill was introduced on the same day Governor Scott Walker indicated he didn’t see a need for a “constitutional carry” bill now in the legislature. That bill would eliminate licensing and training requirements to conceal carry in most places in Wisconsin:

“I think the law we have right now is a good law. I’m comfortable with that,” Walker told reporters when asked about the bill. “The people that talk to me about it say they like where it’s at. Obviously we’re one of the last states to have concealed carry and people said the world was going to come to an end who were the critics. It hasn’t. We’re one of the larger number of permits in the country and it works well that way. People can protect themselves and their families and what I’ve heard from folks is they are happy with the law as it is.”

The Skowronski spokesman said the bill is unrelated to the constitutional carry proposal or any concerns about it:

This is not an effort to ease concerns about constitutional carry. We began researching this bill about 2 months ago when we learned of NC’s proposal, separate from any of the efforts of the constitutional carry folk. Our office spoke with a number of High School Trap coaches about this legislation as well.

Currently, the Scholastic Clay Target Program has over 3500 athletes representing 115 teams in the state of Wisconsin alone. These athletes range from fifth grade through college.