AUSTIN -- High school students in Austin can take everything from engineering design to driver's ed, so how about a course on guns?
A proposed law would allow school districts the choice to offer a high school elective course on firearm safety, training and history. Filed by state Rep. James White (R-Hillister), a former high school teacher and football coach, HB 1142 would include training in the use of firearms including rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers.
"Education, foremost, as stated in our Constitution, is about teaching our people their rights and responsibilities as a free people," said White, who emphasizes that the most important component of the class would be teaching students the history and importance of the Second Amendment.
"I have a lot of confidence in our young people," said White, who argues such a course would be no more dangerous than activities already offered in many high schools. "You could go to any high school today and you'll see them engaging in many what we would consider probably dangerous activities: Welding, auto mechanic, weight lifting, playing sports. So our students are not these little fragile beings. They're very knowledgeable, they're very resilient and they can handle this."
The class would be taught by a licensed concealed handgun instructor or peace officer and would also include instruction on firearm maintenance and cleaning as well as hunter safety.
"They're a useful tool," said licensed concealed handgun instructor Robert Greene. "They do have an inherent risk in using them. You need to make sure you handle them properly and safely just like you would a motor vehicle."
A former police officer with Austin ISD, Greene has taught safety courses to all ages, including the NRA's "Eddie Eagle" program which teaches young children who find a firearm to "Stop! Don't Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult."
When it comes to children, Greene says teaching respect for firearms is important whether or not there are guns in the home.
"Teaching kids the basic rules and the respect of a firearm and what it can do encompasses a lot of other areas other than just firearms," said Greene. "Respect and responsibility."
"Even with the safest instructor accidents happen, and too many times those accidents involve guns," said Clay Robison with the Texas State Teachers Association. "Firearms are more dangerous than football."
Robison supports the idea of lawmakers making it easier for districts to hire professional security guards, but said any talk of introducing guns to teachers or students is a bad idea. Robison argues the legislature's main focus should be on restoring at least some of the $5.4 billion cut from public education last session, a position TSTA and public education advocates have maintained since well before the 83rd Texas Legislature convened in January.
"There's a positive component to learning firearm safety, I suppose," said Robison. "But that does not have to be taught at the public schools."
While the bill's fate will be decided inside the State Capitol, there's no shortage of opinions just outside its granite walls.
"If you're of age, like 18, why not go to the gun range and try to learn that?" said Chancellor Buie, who graduated from Manor High School two years ago. "I don't think that guns should be in schools. That's just totally irresponsible."
"I think it's good for them to know about gun safety," said young mother Jenn Krassler. "I don't think we should shelter them from that kind of stuff."
"I was in the JROTC program and we had marksmanship training, gun safety training right there on campus in a gun range on campus," said White. "So this is nothing really novel, this is not crazy."