Carrying for credit: Why Wisconsin’s gun course proposal misses the point

In America – a society that has become increasingly self-aware about its obsession with guns – one Wisconsin lawmaker is trying to force the subject of guns on high school kids.

In June, Republican Ken Skowronski introduced a state assembly Bill that would teach students how to handle guns in on-site educational classes. Under the proposal, the state superintendent of public instruction would be required to work with the Department of Natural Resources, or any law enforcement agency that specialises in firearm safety, to jointly develop a for-credit course focusing on the “history, science and mathematics” of firearms.

According to Skowronski in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Bill is simply a response to an increasing interest in trap shooting, a form of clay shooting, across the state. On top of boosting the activity, he said the Bill also promoted gun safety.

“More and more students are getting 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,” Skowronski said in a press release in early June.

My take? It’s a dangerous Bill that wastes school resources that are better spent elsewhere. On Aug 3 during public hearing before the assembly’s education committee, Democrats naturally pushed back against the proposal, saying it wasn’t well thought-out and could create fear in classrooms.

Fact is, the Bill also covers firearms not used in trap shooting activities, like handguns. What purpose does teaching students about handguns have when the Bill purportedly only focusses on guns in a sport setting? It seems to set a risky precedent when non-sporting guns are being introduced in a classroom to students who cannot yet drink in the eyes of US law.

Many would agree that the time used to develop this course can be better spent writing more academic and enriching subjects. Though I suppose in the age of the Trump administration, it’s becoming harder see a situation in which gun-toting kids aren’t seen as the norm.

It is worth noting of course that no live ammunition would be allowed into schools under the Bill and all exercises would take place outside a school setting. But this does not detract from the fact that a class solely about guns is a sure-fire way to distract many students from their studies during the day.

Anneliese Dickman, Policy and Outreach Specialist at Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE), tells Study International that the Bill is not about gun safety but more so on the selling of guns.

“One gun range owner explained to the Eau Claire newspaper why he likes the idea (of the Bill): ‘We think it’s a great idea to get them involved in the shooting industry’.”

“Of course he does – the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that a child who takes up a shooting sport by age 16 will spend US$75,000 on guns and accessories over his or her lifetime.”

Dickman also echoes the concerns of several school superintendents who say that school shooting clubs already exist in Wisconsin and these are the only gun education options students need. The argument is simple – if it is taught after school hours, why does the state need to get involved?

Dickman says, “taxpayer funds should not be used to market a deadly product directly to children in their classrooms under the guise of ‘education’.”

According to the Department of Public Instruction, only 30 percent of school districts in Wisconsin offer driver’s education classes for credit. The reason for this it seems is a budget squeeze.

If schools don’t have the time and money to educate kids on the basics of driving and road safety, they shouldn’t be dedicating resources to develop lessons on guns, of all subjects.

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