ANNAPOLIS – Public schools would have to teach Maryland students how to handle guns under legislation passed in the Senate Friday.
Public schools would be required to teach gun safety from kindergarten through high school as part of their health education programs.
“If children understand the power of guns, they will be afraid of them,” said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, lead sponsor of Senate Bill 124.
Hoffman’s legislation, titled The John Joseph Price Gun Safety Education Program, was named after a 13-year-old killed in 1998 by a 9-year-old boy playing with a handgun.
The measure passed, 41-3. In the minority were: Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R- Harford, and Montgomery Democratic Sens. Brian E. Frosh and Jennie M. Forehand. They did not explain their votes during the floor session.
More than one source would have to teach the gun safety classes, Hoffman said, and sources could include law enforcement officers and the National Rifle Association.
Gregory Costa, NRA lobbyist, was unavailable for comment.
Accidental gunshot wounds are the leading cause of death for blacks between the ages of 9 and 14, Hoffman said. Teaching gun safety is “public health education,” she said, and would reduce the number of accidental deaths.
But at least one opponent thinks the measure will cost schools too much time and money. Schools would have to pay for the program under the proposed legislation.
“If they want to have (gun classes) during evenings or after-school activities: No problem,” Forehand said. However, she added, “There’s no golden purse with this bill.”
Money and time are not the only problems, she said.
“I don’t want outside groups to come and teach in our schools,” she said.
Local school boards, which initially opposed the bill, will decide Monday if they will propose changes to the House version of the bill, said Eric B. Schwartz, Maryland Association of Boards of Education deputy executive director.
Carroll recently became the first county to require schools to add gun safety to its curriculum.
Carroll County’s Carole Price, the mother of John Joseph Price, testified earlier this month in House and Senate committees. Price, president of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, was not available for comment Friday.
At the Feb. 7 hearing before the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs hearing she said, “We need to be the first state in the country to mandate gun safety education . . . We owe it to our children.”