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Gun Safety Course For Eighth Graders Approved in Committee

File: Colt 1911 STEPHEN Z CC

A bill to teach kids in school to stay away from guns got early approval in a Senate Committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 43 permits schools and parents to opt in to gun safety and violence prevention instruction for eighth graders. It directs the Utah Attorney General’s Office in conjunction with the state school board to choose who provides the instruction. And it comes with a $75,000 price tag. Republican Senator Todd Weiler sponsored the bill. He says the idea is to teach kids not to touch guns and assume they’re all loaded.

“For good or bad, we teach kids how to balance checkbooks in school,” Weiler says. “We teach them some sex education in school. We teach them a lot of things in school. What we don’t teach them is what to do if they happen across a gun.”

State law already allows districts to have certified volunteers or district teachers provide firearm safety instruction to students, including how to safely handle guns.  Many schools don’t offer the instruction.

Senator Mark Madsen says he’s concerned that Weiler’s bill moves away from gun safety to gun avoidance.  

“I don’t want this to turn into to something where it’s just perpetuating irrational fears,” Madsen says. “We do get a lot of messages about guns through the media. I would hate to turn into a D.A.R.E type of a situation where it’s just brainwashing. It’s just propaganda.”

Weiler says he may amend bill to see that younger kids receive the instruction. He says there is also some interest in using the money to make a safety video in lieu of bringing live experts into the classroom.

SB 43 passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee unanimously. It now goes to the Senate floor for consideration.   

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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