House panel advances bill encouraging gun safety courses in schools

BOISE, Idaho - A bill encouraging school districts to offer gun safety courses at primary and secondary schools has advanced to the House floor for a vote. 

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, the bill's sponsor, introduced similar legislation last year, but the bill failed in committee. 

The prior version of the bill encouraged school districts to create gun safety classes as electives. This year's version, House Bill 443, encourages schools create safety courses that could be taught inside a class curriculum or during a separate event, such as a school assembly. 

"The bill is simple in design and doesn't mandate safety classes, it only encourages school boards to consider providing them for primary and secondary students," Nate said. 

Opponents raised concerns about hidden costs and the time the courses could take from other school subjects. 

Those supporting the bill said the legislation could potentially be life saving. 

"Some families don't have guns, so those families are not going to teach their kids gun safety," Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said. "Then they end up over at the house of someone that does have guns and they're going to be very curious and want to play around with them a little bit, and in two cases in my legislative district that's ended in fatal accidents."

"We teach about safety when they work in the shop at high schools, we teach about safety in drivers ed," Nate said. "There's all sorts of safety teaching that we do. Providing the opportunity and encouragement to do this... it saves lives." 

If the bill is enacted, firearms would be permitted to be used in primary and secondary schools during the course. Instructors have to be from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, a law enforcement agency or a firearms organization.

The committee moved to send the bill to the House for a vote with the panel's three democrats dissenting. 

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