While other states debate whether or not to allow armed guards in schools, one Texas legislator has decided to shift the discussion with a novel, untested idea. Rep. James White, representing an area around Hillister, has recently put forth a bill that, instead of placing weaponry in the hands of adults, would allow public high school students to handle firearms during school hours.
White's bill, H.B. 1142, is two-fold. Under his bill, Texas public high schools would begin offering lessons centered on the "importance" of the Second Amendment, informing students as to their constitutional rights and the history therein. Furthermore, and more importantly, schools would be able to hire licensed trainers and police officers to offer electives centered on the maintenance and usage of firearms.
Though it remains unclear as to whether these electives would take place on- or off-campus, supporters show little qualms about the process of training these teenagers in both historical context and proper practice.
"We are each our own militia -- we are," said Alice Tripp, legislative director for the Texas State Rifle Association. "If I'm personally protected, I'm one less person law enforcement has to worry about -- they weren't hired to be my personal protection. ... The more education, the more background you have, the more appreciation you'll have, and the safer someone's bound to be."
Indeed, while the thought of guns anywhere near campus may result in knee-jerk response from certain demographics, this expansion of what instruction schools may offer seems to have struck a chord with observers and legislators alike. The bill, framed as it currently is, appears to remain educational and preparatory in nature. It focuses merely on training and information. And who would stand in the way of teaching students on a perfectly legal, and entirely relevant, matter?
"Heck yeah, man -- I'm all warm and fuzzy [hearing about this bill]. It cuts to the marrow of my bone and back out, and I support it with every fiber of my being," Brian Mobley, a Concealed Handgun License instructor at Arms Room in League City, said. "Firearms are necessary. ... I'd invite Obama to ask [his] security detail to walk outside and set their firearms in a pile -- they're evil, let's put them away. And I'd ask what his life span's going to be. They won't finish setting down all his guns before [something happened]."
Furthermore, according to supporters, such constitutional background would better aid the children in modern analysis -- the students will thus be able to frame current discourse with a more nuanced version of precedent.
"It's a history course!" Tripp said. "We know that we were all taught at some place in life to stand for the national anthem, to take our hat off. ... We were also taught where it all came from, which helps us appreciate what's going on now."
Kids, Mobley notes, will inevitably be exposed to firearms -- especially the pistols, rifles, and shotguns specified within White's bill. Plus, as both he and Tripp said, schools offer dangerous activities already. "We have football, don't we?" Tripp asked. "Football's probably a lot more risky. And we have Driver's Ed. ... Education is a safety tool unto itself." "Looking at the components of the bill, it's basic firearm safety," said Larry Hysmith, program specialist for Texas 4H, which currently offers extracurricular firearm training for similar age groups. Added Chris Boleman, Texas 4H's program director: "Education is critically important to what we do, and if this happens in schools, then you can kind of compare it to our relationship with FFA."
But public history courses already touch upon the Second Amendment. And numerous clubs and organizations -- 4H and Junior ROTC among the more notable -- already exist to train teenagers in proper firearm usage and maintenance.
Plus, for a public education system still reeling from the $5.4 billion cut in 2011, fiscal concerns and academic priorities still prevent wholesale support for such a firearm course.
"I understand the intent of the bill, but public policy is about priorities, and our priority in schools should be to make sure kids have basic information they need to be successful adults," said Rep. Gene Wu. "We should be devoting our funds to kids actually passing the STARR test, or to hiring back the teachers we let go."
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And then, there's the issue that everyone acknowledges, but no one quite knows how to explicate, or examine. It's apparent that these students -- these hormonal 15- and 16-year-olds, suffering slights both romantic and social for the first times -- will be handling deadly weaponry, surrounded by social circles and pressures unknown to both instructors and parents. And that's, really, the crux of the issue. That, suddenly, these students aren't simply nursing grudges and bruises and social revenge -- with this course, and regardless of how much instruction and precaution the trained teachers offer, these students are handling weapons that schools have spent decades attempting to eradicate from their premises.
But that may be a bridge yet to cross. In the interim, this bill seems to have gained traction, at least among those around Houston. Firearm training cannot be overemphasized -- and for some, that training should begin during the most grueling, formative years of our lives.
"I love the spirit of this bill," said Mobley. "[You have] to expose young people to the harsh realities of firearms -- you have to expose them to the harsh realities to driving a car, to the harsh realities of life. ... I'd like to hammer out the details, but I like the first version of this thing. We're going in the right direction."