Wisconsin is taking a big step to attempt to introduce firearm education in schools.
In news that's likely to lead to much political debate, a new bill introduced in Wisconsin may mean schools will soon offer firearms education courses as an elective to high school students. If made into law, the state superintendent would be required to develop a curriculum on firearms education.
The bill (Assembly Bill 427) was introduced by Republican Representative Ken Skowronski last week. Although they would be required to have a curriculum, individual schools would not be required to offer such a course to students.
Such course curricula will be required to be developed jointly with either the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, law enforcement agencies or other organizations specializing in firearms safety. The classes must also be instructed by someone "who demonstrates proof of training in firearms safety," the bill reads. The length of the course would be up to the schools.
Lawmakers want the classes to go over firearms safety, transport, and the mechanics and types of firearms. The curriculum must also incorporate "the history, science and mathematics of firearms."
If you're familiar with Wisconsin's firearms laws, you know there are prohibitions against live ammunition on school grounds. The bill covers this by also prohibiting the use of live ammunition in the course.
That means any actual target shooting portions of the class would not take place during school hours or on school grounds. In fact, any shooting portions of the proposed classes would not be publicly funded.
Still, and unsurprisingly, the bill is already causing a stir with lawmakers and educators.
It is likely to be a topic of much debate in the coming months. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports several superintendents and lawmakers have already spoken out against the bill, which has 23 co-sponsors.
"While I believe hunter safety and gun education is important ... one more unfunded requirement to teach something in our schools is not necessary, nor would we have time to fit it into our curriculum without dropping something else," Onalaska District superintendent Fran Finco told the paper.
Some felt such gun safety programs are better suited for community education programs outside of schools.
As the bill's lead sponsor, Skowronski told the paper he introduced the bill to increase participation in trap shooting clubs and promote firearm safety. Many schools in Wisconsin and surrounding states offer off-campus trap shooting clubs and he would like to see them treated like other school sports.
Trap and archery shooting programs are becoming more and more common in schools across the country. Even the general idea of this bill isn't exactly new. A Colorado school made some headlines last year for a three-day program that introduced firearms to middle school students in attempt to educate and erase some of the mystique of guns.
But not every program like this has been embraced with open arms. In Florida last November a mother became upset when her son was included in an NRA-sponsored safety program against her wishes.
It will be interesting to see if more moves for this type of program are made under the Trump administration. We'll keep an eye on the progress of this new Wisconsin bill and let you know how it fares here at Wide Open Spaces.