High schooler crafts schools gun safety bill


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A high school senior affected by the Clackamas Town Center shooting crafted a bill that was introduced Wednesday for firearm safety classes in school.

Rebekah McKinley contacted her senator, Dallas Republican Brian Boquist, and crafted the language that is now Senate Bill 170.

At a committee hearing Wednesday, Boquist read part of the letter she wrote explaining her reasons for wanting this bill.

“The primary reason I wrote this bill,” Boquist said quoting McKinley, “is hopefully to prevent some of the tragedies we hear about in the news where young people are fascinated with guns, somehow acquire one and misuse it, and that is the intent of the bill.”  (The full text of her statement is below)

The teen told KOIN 6 News the Clackamas Town Center shooting was close to where she lives and the event really hit home.

“I started thinking of ways I could take a part in doing something to prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future,” she said.

She attended a civics and leadership program hosted by the American Legion Auxiliary, called Girls State, and wrote the original version of the bill. The bill, she said, had wide support among the attendees.

Last spring she attended a different government and civics class at the state capitol and wrote to her state senators and representatives. Boquist wrote back and said he wanted to learn more.

Students in a Portland school (file)

Now, her passion is Oregon Senate Bill 170. It “requires school districts to provide firearm safety courses” for K-12 students.The pros and cons

Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation supports her efforts.

“Every time there’s an accident or misuse of a firearm by a young person, what we hear from the opponents of firearm ownership is we simply have to give up more rights,” Starrett said. “What she’s proposing here is instead of promoting fear and ignorance that we simply promote the kind of education and knowledge that every young person should have.”

Starrett said he has put some classes together that would fit with what McKinley’s plan is.

“We’re not teaching people how to shoot,” he said. “What we’re teaching people how to do is deal with a firearm that they come across, no matter what their experience has been.”

“This is something I hope we would all agree with, irrespective on your position on firearms ownership.”

The League of Women Voters, though, is opposed to the idea and submitted a written statement to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.“We agree that children should be taught basic safety skills related to guns, such as those promoted by the ASK Campaign, sponsored by Ceasefire Oregon. This includes what the proper response should be when a child sees a firearm. However, they do not include ‘instruction in the appearance and workings of firearms’ and the ‘opportunity to handle an unloaded firearm,’ which are requirements in this bill. We can foresee that many parents would object to this course and to their children handling weapons of any kind.”

Oregon State Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, April 8, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

“It’s unfortunate as a high school student she’s been beat up in some newspapers,” Boquist told the committee. “We’ve seen some pretty, as we all see on this particular issue, some pretty hateful email in regards to her bill and her personal state because she brought this bill forward.”

Parents would be able to opt their student out of this program, should it become law.What she hopes

Regardless of what happens, Rebekah McKinley hopes her idea encourages people to talk about gun safety education.

“Even if it does not pass this legislative session, I’d like to at least see that discussion. And if it does pass, that’s great.”

—–Statement from Rebekah McKinley to Senate Committee on Judiciary:Dear Senate Judiciary Committee,My name is Rebekah McKinley. I am a high school senior and my Senator, Brian Boquist, recently introduced a bill, Senate Bill 170, based on an idea I had. Senate Bill 170 is currently under your committee’s consideration, and I would like to provide information that I believe will assist you as you consider this bill.Here is the background story on Senate Bill 170. I attended Girls State, a civics and leadership program hosted by the American Legion Auxiliary each June. While there, I wrote the original version of this bill, which is meant to be completely neutral (not pro- or anti-gun) and non-partisan.The goal of the bill was to bring gun safety education into schools, where we have unfortunately seen many tragedies involving guns. Essentially, the bill entailed having police officers, members of the armed forces, veterans, or other gun safety experts go into K-12 schools and teach students in a safe, completely neutral environment what to do if they see a gun or someone misusing one. The bill had a great deal of popular support among the other Girls State delegates and was one of the four that passed both the Girls State Senate and House, out of dozensLast spring, I attended another government/civics class called TeenPact, held each year at the State Capitol. I brought the same bill there as well. As part of the class, we wrote to our State Senators and Representatives. I included information about my bill in my letter. My Senator, Brian Boquist, wrote back and said he was interested in learning more about my bill and possibly taking it to the legislature. The version of the bill now at the Oregon Senate is almost exactly the same as my original bill.Two newspapers have written about the bill: the World Link in Coos Bay and the OregonianLinks to the articles are below.http://theworldlink.com/news/opinion/editorial/education-responsibility-it-s-that-simple/article_974a613a-6546-59f7-bd23-b1ff099c7eca.htmlhttp://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2015/03/unloaded_guns_in_kindergarten.htmlThe primary reason I wrote this bill was to hopefully help prevent some of the tragedies we hear about on the news, where young people are fascinated with guns, somehow acquire one, and misuse it.I believe that if we help students understand what guns are, what to do if they see one or someone misusing one, and build relationships with police and/or other gun safety instructors in the local community, all in a safe, positive, realistic, and well-supervised environment, students are less likely to be paralyzed by the sight of guns or have an unhealthy fascination with them, which could cause them to get in trouble at some point. The ultimate goal behind Senate Bill 170 is to empower students, help them become confident in knowing what to do in an emergency involving guns, encourage them to ask questions they may have about guns or gun safety, and help them to have healthy views of both police and gun safety, regardless of individual views on gun ownership.I sincerely hope this information will be helpful to you as you consider Senate Bill 170; if you have any questions I will be happy to answer those as well.Respectfully submitted,Rebekah McKinley

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