Firearm Safety Program Coming to Virginia Elementary Schools

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In addition to budget issues, Virginia lawmakers are looking at changes to various bills during Wednesday's one-day session, including a bill that brings gun safety programs to elementary schools.

One of the bills calls for the Virginia Board of Education to "establish a standardized program of firearm safety education for students in the elementary school grades to promote the protection and safety of children."

Once the program is created and made available, it will be up to individual school divisions to determine if they want to incorporate it into their classrooms.

Some Valley parents have concerns about the idea.

"It's not the wisest thing because, for instance, [my daughter]. She doesn't know what a gun is. But, if she sees gun safety, then now she's curious about it," says Nery Washington, who lives in Harrisonburg.

Dennis Golden runs a gun store in the Friendly City called Ashby Arms.

Safety is something he says he's already stressing with his stepchildren. He supports taking the message of gun safety into schools.

"Even if they're not around them in their own home, they could come in contact with firearms in other people's homes," says Golden.

The legislature voted overwhelmingly in favor of this move.

According to the text of the bill, lawmakers require "that the program objectives incorporate, among other principles of firearm safety, accident prevention and the rules of the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program."

"Nothing about this program should make children curious about firearms, and we don't encourage children to own a gun. So, as to any of those kind of fears, I would say they're totally unwarranted," says Alexa Fritts, a spokeswoman for the NRA.

The NRA program teaches kids if they see a gun, not to touch it, leave the area and to tell an adult about it.

"For something that [my daughter] doesn't know, you're actually opening it out there for her to be curious about it. And so, now she is going to look for the gun," says Washington.

"Video games and television are going to have more of an effect on children and wanting to see and be around firearms than a safety class," says Golden.

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education says employees haven't started putting the program together yet since lawmakers were still debating language of the bill Wednesday. The spokesperson says it's unlikely the board will have a program approved in time for next school year.