- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday vetoed a bill that would have required schools to teach gun safety, saying the proposal promoted the handling of weapons by children.
The legislation, which had bipartisan support, was the first in the nation to require gun-safety education from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
"This bill as it was passed puts a state stamp of approval on the practice of taking middle school and high school students to gun firing ranges to handle weapons," the governor said.
"I support efforts to create responsible gun safety programs in our schools. However, this bill would create a clear appearance of the state encouraging young people to handle weapons and potentially furthering their interest in a time when we are trying to fight the scourge of gun violence."
Mr. Glendening said he was particularly troubled by a portion of the bill that would allow a "community or civic" group to work with school boards on the program. This, he said, raised "the specter of the National Rifle Association (NRA) taking bus loads of 13-year-old boys and girls off to a firing range for a day of shooting."
"Taking such a sensitive and important program out of the countys hands and turning it over to an organization such as the NRA is not an appropriate response to the issue of gun safety and education, he said.
Educators applauded the veto, saying the measure had consequences for student safety and would divert time and money away from academics.
"We commend the governors action," said Debra Williams-Garner, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Teachers Association. "We were concerned about the mandatory curriculum requirements and the ramifications of promoting students to go to firing ranges to practice shooting guns."
School boards around the state had opposed the measure saying it was an unfunded mandate. Financial analysts estimated the proposal would cost the state $89,000 to establish and $65,000 annually thereafter.
Supporters of the bill expressed disappointment but said they expected the veto because of the measures connection with the NRA.
"The bill was not pro or con on guns but just focused on safety," said Delegate Carmen Amedori, a Carroll County Republican who co-sponsored the bill. "We never thought [the governor] would sign the bill. He isnt interested in gun safety. Hes just interested in taking guns away."
The measure would have allowed local schools systems to use programs developed by the NRA, Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, and an association of emergency room physicians, or to design their own. It only allowed students in seventh through 12th grades to use firearms for hunter-safety programs, as long as the instruction took place at a qualified shooting range.
Many legislators across the political spectrum said they saw no need for the bill because school systems already are free to implement or mandate gun-education programs. But supporters said that a law requiring the programs was necessary to ensure that school systems provide gun-safety programs. And they added that the veto killed a bill that would have allowed school districts some flexibility.
"It wasnt one-size-fits-all legislation," Mrs. Amedori said. "It would have allowed the curriculum to fit the environment."
Many school systems already provide some gun-safety education, although the extent of these programs varies greatly. Only Carroll County has adopted a countywide program. That system borrowed from the NRAs "Eddie Eagle" program last year.
Elsewhere, Montgomery County school officials six years ago reviewed, approved and made available the NRAs gun-safety program for all second- and third-grade teachers to use if they chose to do so. Other jurisdictions, including Frederick County and Baltimore city, spend some class time teaching the proper use of guns.

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