LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State Senator Jon Bumstead (R- North Muskegon) has introduced a bill to allow schools to offer an option for a gun safety and hunting course.
Bumstead introduced Senate Bill 664 with the backing of the Michigan Department of Education and the Department of Natural Resources. It’s also supported by the Michigan United Conservation Club.
Amy Trotter, CEO of Michigan United Conservation Club, said offering a class in school will foster an appreciation of conserving the state’s natural resources.
“We simply want to create future conservation stewards throughout our state,” she told Nexstar’s WLNS. “And the best way to do that is through education. And the place where kids are is in the schools.”
She said the legislation, if it becomes law, would encourage youth to become involved in hunting.
“Our hunting ranks are shrinking,” she said. “We’re not doing a good enough job getting new kids in to replace the people who are aging out of the hunting activities. So this is a great way to really recruit and retain individuals.”
The legislation would allow a school to recreate an opt-in physical education class that will include education about gun safety and proper hunting skills. The class would be available to students in grades 6 through 12.
The legislation would not allow firearms or ammunition into a school, and the course would have to be taught by a certified hunter instructor. Trotter said those are important skills, whether a person takes up hunting or not. The gun safety component also serves as a firearm protection education moment as well – removing some of the unknowns about guns.
“Abstinence doesn’t work,” she said. “You actually have to educate someone to help them understand it, demystify it, and allow them to learn how to utilize it properly.”
But gun safety advocates said the legislation focuses on the wrong issues.
“They’re not interested in addressing this public health crisis with the urgency that it deserves,” said Dylan Morris, Co-Founder of No Future Without Today. The organization grew out of the Oxford School Shooting that killed four students and injured seven others. A teacher was also wounded.
Morris said there are more pressing issues surrounding guns than proper usage and safe hunting practices. He said guns shouldn’t be discussed at all in schools.
“Guns are the leading cause of death for children in Michigan,” he said. “And so we need to actually be focusing on preventative measures that will go long before children get their hands on guns.”
Rather than guns and hunting, Morris has a list of concerns that a course could address to have an impact on what he labeled a public health crisis.
“Prioritizing social-emotional learning in schools,” he said. “That is yet to be mandated. To make sure that students are actually taking care of themselves and taking care of others. And getting the support at school that they may not be getting at home.”
Bumstead’s bill was referred to the Natural Resources and Agriculture committee.