- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Gun-safety education in schools is gaining widespread support in the House of Delegates, but political biases and territorial disputes over mandating curriculums will have to be settled before it becomes law.

"[We] are concerned that it's not all NRA coming in. We want to be sure it's not all one view," said Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Baltimore Democrat. "Although their gun-safety program is probably good, those of us who are for gun control, when you say 'NRA'certain things pop in our heads like all this money flowing against us."

"Now we know it's political," replied Delegate James Ports, Baltimore County Republican, during a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. "I don't think we should exclude those people for the same reasons you just gave."

Miss McIntosh is chief sponsor of a Democrat-led bill co-sponsored by 17 Democrats and one Republican that would require gun-safety education in grades one through 12 as a part of the health curriculum.

That bill's primary advocates said they want to require schoolteachers who may or may not have ever handled a gun to do the teaching, although it's not clear whether the bill, as written, mandates that. Yet even the Maryland PTA and the state's teachers union, which traditionally opposes bills mandating curriculum, support having "professional" teachers instruct students in gun safety.

A Republican-led bill would require gun-safety education in grades one through six and turn to accredited gun-safety instructors or police to teach students how to stay safe.

Delegate Carmen Amedori, Carroll County Republican, said she opposes requiring teachers to teach gun safety because they already have enough to do and usually aren't experts on the subject.

Under her bill shaped by an approach and gun-safety curriculum instituted in December in Carroll County the state education board would have to work with police to develop guidelines and curriculums. But those guidelines would leave it to local boards to shape curriculums to local needs.

Miss McIntosh's bill would make gun safety part of required health instruction. The State Department of Education would have to develop guidelines for gun-safety programs.

In conjunction with the state board and police, each local board of education would have to develop a gun-safety program suited to its students' needs. Local boards would have to submit their curriculums to the State Department of Education for "evaluation" and report to the department annually on the status of the program.

The McIntosh bill says "multiple resources" could be used in gun-safety education. The Amedori bill says local boards could call on police as well as safety instructors accredited by other groups to come into schools to teach or demonstrate.

The Maryland State Department of Education opposes writing gun-safety education into law at all because officials there believe mandating curriculums is an administrative function they, not legislators, should do.

But Ways and Means Committee Vice Chairman Anne Healey, Prince George's County Democrat, said one of her biggest concerns is that children who have been taught guns should be avoided would get forced exposure to them.

"The thought of someone coming into school … and lowering that barrier is appalling," Miss Healey said.

Miss McIntosh said she was sure firearms would not be brought in unless doing so was approved by parents.

"You don't want children to get to feel more friendly toward a gun," Miss McIntosh said.

Mrs. Amedori has said the program should focus on teaching safety, not making value judgments.

While Miss McIntosh argued for teaching the program every year so that conflict resolution and violence avoidance could be taught to older children, Mrs. Amedori said that should be a separate curriculum.

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