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August 15th, 2022
L&T Opinions Page

A SECOND OPINION, The Lawrence Journal-World



Credit Kansas lawmakers for having the wisdom to cancel debate on a bill that would push a National Rifle Association gun safety program on Kansas schools.

That debate was to be Thursday on House Bill 2460, which would create a standardized firearm safety program for school districts that choose to teach it. The bill mandates that the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program developed by the NRA be used for children in first through fifth grades. For grades six through eight, the bill would allow for either the Eddie Eagle program or the Hunter Education in our Schools program offered by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Finally, the bill would offer hunter education for students in grades nine through 12.

“We don’t need to be doing that right now,” said state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a moderate Republican from Overland Park. “It’s much too soon” after last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., killed 17 people.

In canceling debate on the bill, House Speaker Ron Ryckman said a more comprehensive plan is needed, one that could include mental health initiatives.

The NRA gun safety program is three decades old. The organization estimates that 30 million U.S. students have taken such a course. The bill’s advocates said the program teaches young children to avoid guns they see and tell an adult. Rep. Ken Corbet, R-Topeka, told The Associated Press he would think schools “would like a class like this to offer,” especially after mass shootings.

But Corbet is naive if he thinks school districts wouldn’t have concerns about opening their elementary school doors to one of the most politically strident groups in the country. The NRA, founded to promote marksmanship and shooting as a sport, has a long history in gun safety and education. But over the last half century the NRA has become an unabashedly political organization. This is the group that made famous the saying “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” and whose leader, Wayne La Pierre, once referred to federal officials charged with enforcing gun laws as “jack-booted government thugs.”

The NRA is fully engaged in an American culture war that has no middle ground. You’re either with them or you are a target. And the Legislature shouldn’t be in the business of giving activist groups like that access to the state’s elementary school students. Families interested in the NRA’s gun safety program for their children can certainly do so, just not through their public schools.

It was right to postpone debate on House Bill 2460. Hopefully, it won’t be a part of the comprehensive gun safety plan Ryckman hinted is coming.