- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah lawmaker wants middle school students to get classroom training on what to do if they encounter a weapon or if a gunman enters their school.

The proposal by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, focuses primarily on giving guidance to students on how to react if they come across a gun. It is geared toward eighth-graders, but Weiler said he may open it up to students as young as sixth grade.

The course also would include instruction on what to do if a student brings a gun to school or how to stay safe if there is a school shooter.

The proposal follows mass school shootings, most recently at an Oregon community college in October that left 10 dead, and other incidents in which children have brought guns to school.

Weiler cited reports of children who have found guns at their homes or friends’ homes, picked them up and accidently shot someone.

“These are not just hypothetical situations. These are real-life scenarios,” Weiler said.

He said the instruction would focus on teaching kids not to touch a gun if they find it and to instead alert an adult.

“Kids see guns everyday on TV in one form or another, and the natural instinct is, ‘Oh, that’s something cool. I want to reach out and grab it,’” he said. “You kind of want kids to think about what they would do in that situation before it happens.”

Utah already has a law that allows gun safety courses to be taught in elementary schools. Weiler’s bill goes further than the existing law by setting aside funding for the program and containing other elements such as active-shooter training.

The bill does not specify what that training would look like, but Weiler said no guns will be brought into the class.

Miriam Walkingshaw, the president of the group Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, said she would like to know more about who would teach the class and what the curriculum would entail. She said as long as the instruction is presented in a neutral way and is limited to staying safe and instructing children not to handle a gun, she thinks it’s a good idea.

“I think it’s good to talk to kids about guns, because there are a lot of guns in Utah,” she said.

Over the past few decades, a handful of states have passed similar gun safety legislation. Recent laws in Louisiana, Virginia, Michigan and Missouri allow gun safety courses to be taught in elementary schools and specifically suggest the curriculum be based off the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.

The NRA program uses the mascot Eddie Eagle to instruct kids to “Stop! Don’t Touch. Run Away. Tell a Grown-Up.” According to the program’s website, the curriculum “makes no value judgments about firearms” but treats them as part of everyday life, just like swimming pools, matchbooks or electrical outlets.

Weiler said he does not have any particular group in mind with the legislation, which calls for the state education and attorney general’s offices to issue a request for proposals from providers of gun safety curriculum.

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