A proposed bill designed to teach gun safety in high schools is causing mixed emotions around North Carolina. Educators in Sampson County are divided on the matter too.
If approved, House Bill 612 would allow the State Board of Education to develop a firearm education course as an elective in high schools. It will include history, math and science related to firearms and safety. Law enforcement agencies or a firearm association will provide recommendations. During instruction, the use or presence of live ammunition is not allowed.
Ray Spence, a hunter safety educator at Hobbton High School, believes it’s a terrific idea.
“Unfortunately, in the society we live in today, a lot of students and parents have a negative view on guns,” Spence said. “It’s not necessarily from an ignorance standpoint or lack of being informed. They just have zero experience with it.”
For Spence, some of the benefits include learning about safety and proper handling procedures. He added that a lot of youths are exposed to weapons through movies and video games. Therefore, an introduction in school may help students understand the impact and other precautions.
“From what I read on the law, kids are not going to be handling a gun per se or shooting a gun,” Spence said. “It teaches them the safety and law aspects of it. Hopefully it’ll foster a positive respect for gun owners.”
Spence disagrees that the class will promote violence or a mass shooting.
“If a child has access to a gun and they have intent on doing harm with the gun, I don’t think there’s much that I or anyone else can do really from that standpoint,” Spence said. “That’s more of a parent and law enforcement issue.”
He believes it could be a deterrent because a student can see the damage and it also stresses the ramifications of laws. If approved, it’s something he would like to see at HHS, since a lot of students from Sampson County are not exposed to the education. He said a low percentage of students he teaches have not had experienced.
“The best way to inform and make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what a firearm is or how to use it, is to educate them,” Spence said. “I think the that’s true purpose of this bill.”
Col. Tommy Macon, assistant superintendent for academics for Sampson and student services for Sampson County Schools, said he’s totally against having having a gun course in the public school system.
“There are too many other important things that we in public education need to focus on,” Macon said about preparing students for college and other educational opportunities beyond high school.
However, he stated that he’s perfectly fine with parents teaching and sharing aspects of guns and safety with children.
“That’s a parent prerogative,” Macon said. “Ultimately, safety would be my concern and the development of a school culture that support guns as a norm. Society has a big enough challenge enforcing gun control. However, I do recognize that in education we have a few programs where some form of gun use is acceptable, such as the hunter safety program and JROTC.”
The bill recently passed a first reading in the house and was sent to the House Committee on Education for more discussion. If approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Roy Cooper, classes are allowed to begin during the 2017-18 school year.