Should we teach gun safety education in Maine public schools?

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Mainers love their guns. Our state’s heritage is steeped in firearm tradition. With a rich history of big game pursuits in the north to pheasant hunting in the south or the growing interest in shooting sports statewide, guns are a big part of life in the Pine Tree state.

Along with the widespread ownership and use of guns comes responsibility; for our safety, the safety of others and most importantly, the safety of our children.

According to a 1997 report by the National Institute of Justice, there were over 200 million guns owned by Americans. It is a safe bet to say that the number has increased significantly in the past 20 years. The National Rifle Association Education and Training Division estimates that firearms can be found in half of American households.

In Maine, I’d guess the percentage is even higher. These statistics indicate that many children, especially Maine’s youth, will come into contact with firearms one way or the other.

That contact may be as innocuous as seeing Grandpa’s solid oak gun cabinet displaying a lifetime’s collection of fine Italian shotguns. It could also be while playing at a friends home whose parents aren’t as vigilant about firearm safety as they should be.

Whether kids grow up in a firearm household or visit family and friends who may own guns, it’s safe to say that at least half of the children in America will at least see a gun during their childhood.

Our kids are taught about stranger danger, fire drills and more in school. Why not gun safety?

The NRA’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program is perfectly suited to this task. The curriculum is designed for teachers, parents and civic organizations to teach kids four basic concepts: “Stop! Don’t Touch. Run Away. Tell A Grown-Up.”

The gun accident prevention program, developed in 1988 by a diverse team of educators, school administrators, urban housing safety officials, law enforcement, clinical psychologists and firearm safety experts, makes no judgement about firearms or their use. It’s sole purpose is to keep kids safe if they have an unexpected encounter with a gun.

The instructor guides for the program were developed by Dr. Lisa Monroe, an Early Childhood Curriculum Specialist at the University of Oklahoma.

“A teacher knows their students best. And they can look at the curriculum and decide what activities would best fit their group of students. So it’s not necessarily a canned curriculum that you must do X, Y and Z. It gives teachers the autonomy and flexibility to choose what they know to be best for their particular group of students,” said Monroe.

Much the same as swimming pools, matches and electrical outlets, the focus is on behavior surrounding a potential hazard. No guns are used in the program and the NRA’s name does not appear on any of the curriculum.

One mom had this to say about the methodology of the program, “It’s the gun equivalent of Stop, Drop and Roll. My kids can recite it.”

The Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program is designed for Pre-K though fourth grade students and all course materials are free. While the program is offered by the NRA Education  and Training Division, you do not have to be an NRA certified instructor to teach it. It can be taught by teachers, police officers, civic groups, parents or anyone else willing to study and prepare the course.

Dr. Monroe has some advice for those who may have reservations, “I would say to a superintendent or school administrator that this program is absolutely appropriate for their schools and their children because it’s about safety.”

Gun politics aside, this is an issue that everyone should support. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is not a conservative or liberal issue. It is not a rural northern or urban southern issue. It’s a child safety issue.

If we can save just one child’s life, isn’t it worth doing?

John Floyd

About John Floyd

John is a U.S Army veteran and lives on a small homestead in northeast Maine. His passion for the outdoors and love of country are the influences behind his columns and blogs.