Joe Waldron, legislative director for the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and a veteran Olympia lobbyist, is spearheading support for Senate Bill 5660 and Senate Joint Memorial 8006, both of which promote genuine firearms safety education in the public schools.
The measures are scheduled for a hearing this Thursday before the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education at 5:30 p.m.
SB 5660 would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to “develop a program of instruction for firearms accident prevention for students in kindergarten through grade 12.” SJM 8006 revives an earlier action in the mid 1990s when Waldron drafted what became a Senate Joint Memorial to put the National Rifle Association’s award-winning Eddie Eagle program in the elementary schools for students up to age 11. It was adopted unanimously by the Legislature, but the SPI did nothing.
Waldron has prepared a statement for the hearing Thursday in which he notes, “It's encouraging to see actual gun safety education proposals rather than the usual gun control legislation masquerading under the name ‘gun safety’."
His statement concludes with a slap at self-appointed “gun safety” groups — a term often repeated by the mainstream press — by observing, “Various ‘gun violence prevention’ groups have developed alleged ‘safety training’ programs also targeted at children. In none of these is actual gun safety taught. The intent is to scare children away from guns.”
Various proposals have been introduced during this year’s legislative session, which this column has covered here and here. Last week, yet another attempt to ban so-called “assault weapons” was unveiled, and quickly edited after the Seattle Times got curious about a passage that would have allowed sheriff’s deputies to make annual warrantless searches of a gun owner’s residence. This column discussed that controversy.
Sponsors of the measure insisted to the Seattle Times that they had not seen the specific offending passage, but in an e-mail to this column, Waldron recalled, “This year's bill is a 90% duplicate of the bill that ran 2-3 years ago…The annual inspection by the sheriff was in that one, too.”
In his statement to the committee for this Thursday’s hearing, Waldron reports, “A study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics back in the 1990s revealed that youngsters who received a proper introduction to guns -- their legitimate uses AND their dangers -- by trained adults were far less likely to get into ‘gun trouble’ than were those who learned their gun lore ‘on the street.’
“One potential limiting factor,” he observes, “while the Eddie Eagle program was designed to be taught in the classroom by the existing teachers, the Home Firearm Safety course is properly taught by certified instructors. I have discussed this with a number of instructors in the western Washington area. Many have indicated their willingness to conduct the course as a public service.”
Self-styled “gun safety” groups, which are gun prohibitionists with a media-assisted makeover, are in something of a spot with these two measures. They may have to publicly acknowledge that their intent is as Waldron says, to “scare children” and even teens and adults “away from guns.”
And then they would have to explain why.