It has been proven repeatedly that teaching young people the dangers of certain activities is more effective at keeping them safe than attempting to shield them from it completely. Whether it’s abstinence only education for sex or draconian rules on alcohol and drugs, the best way to learn about something is age-appropriate education that includes frank discussions about both the benefits and consequences of engaging in certain activities. Gun ownership is no different and schools across the nation have demonized them to the point of ridiculousness with zero tolerance laws that end in children having their lives ruined for making finger pistols or chewing toaster pastries into the wrong shape.
Craver Middle School in Colorado is attempting to break the mold on that front, however, by opting to actually educate their students on the proper safety and handling of firearms. They are doing so in a very hands on way: By bringing guns into the school and even taking a field trip to a shooting range.
The three day program is run by Project Appleseed, a nonpartisan apolitical group that teaches children about guns. They generally focus on marksmanship and the proper handling of rifles from different positions — both for effectiveness and safety.
The idea behind this program is that by removing some of the mystique behind guns, the students will be less tempted to seek them out using subterfuge. They will also learn the dangers of firearms in a controlled environment and how to properly handle them in case they ever come across one.
“We’re teaching them about the firearms so they are familiar with them, they can be safe with them” said Project Appleseed’s Jim Heath.
The training is part of a larger lesson about civics and history, with a special focus on the American Revolution. The students were even able to explore the types of firearms utilized by the military at the time, even getting a live demonstration of muskets by experts at the range.
Of course, the curriculum has not been without controversy. Some parents expressed concern about allowing their kids handle guns, even when supervised by experts in a controlled environment. Others accompanied the group, and learned that the concerns were misplaced, as safety was the most important order of the day.
“Guns are one of those things where some people shy away from them,” said Alan Plattner, one of the parents. “They never learn about them and they fear them. I don’t think the guns are anything to fear. I think what you need to do is be educated about them and then make a good choice.”
This is the first time Project Appleseed has been allowed to bring real guns into the schools they speak at, instead focusing more on the theory side of things when speaking to children in the past. The undertaking required not only approval from the school, but also from the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office and signed permission slips from parents.
Only about half of the students were allowed to participate, however, as some parents continued to have concerns and opted not to let their children learn about firearm safety for the very fear the program is aimed at mitigating. Still, it seems to have been a highly successful experiment, with students gaining important skills and life knowledge and learning to be cognizant of the dangers of guns.