PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon lawmakers are considering a new bill that would encourage schools to hold firearm education classes for kids in first grade.
A public hearing was held Wednesday to address the proposal that advocates said focuses on safety and preventing accidents by keeping guns out of the hands of young children.
The measure authorizes schools to offer a 30-minute class taught by a law officer certified in firearms instruction once a year for first-grade students. Parents could opt their child out.
Proponents stressed that the class would not be about how to shoot a gun but what children should do if they ever come across one.
Derek LeBlanc is a certified firearms instructor and founder of the Eugene-based gun safety organization, S.A.F.E. Foundation. He’s also the leading supporter of the bill.
“It might not be popular — I respect the other side and they want to use abstinence as the magic pill to protect our children but unfortunately it hasn’t worked and I’d like to try something different,” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc’s program teaches kids who find guns to stop, don’t touch, run away and tell an adult.
But not everyone is on board with the idea.
Ceasefire Oregon, a group working to prevent gun violence, is against the bill.
“Children who received instruction in gun safety were no more likely than those who did not to heed basic rules about what to do when they found a gun, like leaving a room, not touching it or telling an adult,” said Penny Okamota, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon.
The group wants instead for adults to be fully responsible for gun safety by taking care to store guns in a way that keeps kids from ever coming into contact with them.
If the bill makes it to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s desk, LeBlanc said he hopes it could unify groups on both sides of the debate so that even better gun safety education for young children can be formed.