AUGUSTA — A group of state lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would require Maine public schools to offer gun-safety courses.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, mandates that schools offer gun-safety education for students in grades nine through 12.

“There’s 300 million guns in America,” Davis said. “It seems to me people ought to know which end the bullet comes out of. It’s kind of a blunt way to say it, but they ought to know something about them.”

Davis said the bill is meant to give public school students an opportunity to learn about guns and how to handle them properly and safely.

Co-sponsors of the measure include Reps. Russell Black, R-Wilton, and Brad Crafts, R-Lisbon, and Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick.

Gerzofsky is co-chairman of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Black said he supported the measure because in the past, students in grade five were offered a hunter safety course in his hometown.

“It was offered, not required,” Black said. “Any time you can offer the proper handling and safety of firearms and educate them, it’s always a good thing.”

Both Black and Davis said the intent was not to add another unfunded mandate to Maine public schools. They said they believed local groups, including local fish and game clubs, as well National Rifle Association clubs, would be willing to step forward and offer the courses for little or no charge to schools.

At least three prior attempts have been made to pass laws requiring gun-safety courses in public schools, according to a check of legislative records.

All three measures, offered in the mid- to late 1990s, were either voted down or defeated in committee.

Davis’ bill will likewise face opposition, including from the Maine Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union.

“Schools are learning places and we need to keep the focus on education issues,” said Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of the MEA. “All educators are looking for a way to make our schools safe. We do not believe guns in the classroom are part of that solution.” 

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