- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

Two Maryland legislators from different ends of the political spectrum say they will push for gun-safety training to be taught in all state public schools.

State Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, Baltimore Democrat, and Delegate Carmen Amedori, Carroll County Republican, say they plan to introduce legislation that would require the training.

Mrs. Hoffman, a gun-control advocate, and Mrs. Amedori, a gun-rights advocate, agree gun safety is a public health issue worth addressing despite different views on the extent of the problem, who's to blame and how to fix it.

They also said they don't want to dictate curricula, but believe students should be taught gun safety in schools just as they are taught about the risks of HIV infection and drug abuse.

But Mrs. Hoffman is not ready as Mrs. Amedori is to leave course content entirely up to schools.

Mrs. Hoffman said she would be opposed to allowing schools to meet the requirement by offering the "Eddie Eagle" program designed by the National Rifle Association.

"Where you live may dictate what you teach … [but] I would be opposed if that was the only thing they used," Mrs. Hoffman said.

Both agree a mandate for school gun-safety training should bar the use of actual firearms in any curriculum, but that's the only restriction Mrs. Amedori wants to see.

"I would hope that Senator Hoffman and I could get together and discuss this, but I certainly don't want legislation that would bar the 'Eddie Eagle' program," Mrs. Amedori said.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said requiring schools to teach gun safety would complement measures Maryland took this year. The omnibus Gun Safety Act requires external locks to accompany all handguns sold in the state beginning Oct. 1 and built-in locks on all guns sold in Maryland after 2002 as well as some more controversial provisions such as ballistics "fingerprinting" and a continued push to mandate personalized "smart guns."

"I'm the same Cas Taylor that honored the 'Eddie Eagle' program [in 1998 by sponsoring a] House resolution," said Mr. Taylor, Allegany Democrat, adding that he hoped moves to mandate gun-safety education in schools would not get caught in politics and misunderstandings.

Although "Eddie Eagle" was created by the NRA which advocates gun rights and ownership the program is strictly a gun-safety and avoidance program developed to teach children, particularly young ones, how to stay safe if they find an unsecured firearm, Mr. Taylor and Mrs. Amedori said.

Carroll County public schools borrowed from the "Eddie Eagle" program to develop a gun-safety curriculum they plan to introduce in their health courses during the coming school year, they announced earlier this week.

But Carroll County school officials decided they needed to expand the presentation to address the issue fully and reinforce it at every grade level, said William J. Piercy, the schools' assistant supervisor of health and staff development.

Ray Carlson, assistant principal at Berlin Intermediate School in rural Worcester County, said it's important to let schools address risks for students at every age in each community.

"I can see both sides," said Mr. Carlson, who taught a hunter safety course at Snow Hill Middle School until about 15 years ago when schools no longer allowed even the BB guns he used under controlled conditions.

"Education creates an interest and that starts exploration," Mr. Carlson said.

In a community like his own, where "eight out of 10 households have a revolver," Mr. Carlson said, communities need to provide a "healthy outlet" such as target shooting clubs for children to exercise any curiosity about firearms.

Gun-safety teachers also will need a grasp of Maryland's complicated gun laws to answer questions that will come from students of age to have firearms, said Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry Barnes, who started his county public schools talking about teaching gun safety and who is now reviewing the proposed curriculum.

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