Lately, there has been a lot of news about gun safety in schools throughout the U.S., whether it is with new laws allowing college students to bring a gun on campus, or having elementary children sign a voluntary pledge declaring that they will not bring a gun to their school. It seems as though this topic has become something that every school should address in some way to ensure that every student understands the dangers that weapons, such as guns, can potentially have.
No matter if you are for or against guns, I think we can all agree that it is important for all of our children to be aware of them and learn why bringing guns onto school grounds can be a hazard to themselves or to others. However, many people are not sure how to go about firearm safety education or if it is something that should even be taught in schools.
According to the most current data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,184 children and teens died from gunfire in the United States in 2006- which was a 6 percent increase from the previous year. Of these deaths, 2,225 were homicides, 763 were suicides and 196 were due to an accident or undetermined circumstances and 17,451 children suffered non-fatal gun injuries.
With these rates and the increasing number of school shootings and accidents with youth and firearms that have occurred over the last few years, more and more schools across the country are providing their students with weapon safety classes. Most of the programs that are offered are similar to other education programs such as drug and alcohol education like D.A.R.E. or Sex Ed. A majority of the time, local law enforcement and fire crews come in and do activities with the students, such as demonstrations, videos, role playing, coloring and more.
“Gun education is not mandatory in any state as far as we know, but of course we think all schools should have it,” said Heidi Cifelli, manager of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program. “Gun education is the best way to save young lives.”
Right now, there are two programs that a majority of the schools who offer gun safety are using. The first is the Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program which is put on by the National Rifle Association. This program provides K-3 students the basics of gun safety with the popular slogan. If you see a gun: Stop! Don’t Touch. Leave the area. Tell an Adult. The program provides students with a workbook with various activities, as well as small rewards for participating and completing the program. The program is taught by the school’s local police departments and has been used by schools nationwide since 1988.
The second program that schools have been using is the Straight Talk About Risks (STAR) program. This K-12 program is put on by Center to Prevent Handgun Violence and includes a number of videos and role playing activities to teach younger students what to do when they come across a gun or weapon of some sort, how to oppose peer pressure to play with guns, and how to differentiate real-life violence from television violence. For the older students, the program presents activities that teach coping skills, decision-making skills, refusal skills for resisting peer pressure, and conflict management skills.