Firearms are a serious matter, and it’s essential to teach children from an early age about their potential danger. Unfortunately, not all parents and guardians are adequately informed or trained to teach their kids about gun safety. That’s why it’s important to have programs in place to help educate children about the importance of not playing with firearms.
This session, Representative Selina Bliss tried to do just that when she introduced HB2332, a bill dealing with firearms safety training in Arizona schools. But Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed it. This decision is concerning because it may put the safety of children at risk.
HB2332 would have provided education and resources to schools to teach children about firearm safety and the consequences of playing with guns. The Governor’s decision to veto the bill sends the message that gun safety is not a priority for the state, which is simply unacceptable. In her veto letter, Governor Hobbs stated, “Ensuring the safety of our students is a responsibility that belongs to all of us.” We agree. That is why HB2332 was so important, and yet while the Governor admits to meeting “with gun safety advocates to discuss acts of preventable gun violence,” she never responded to numerous requests to meet and discuss from us.
It’s crucial to remember that firearms are not toys, and they should never be treated as such. Children must understand the dangers associated with guns and how to handle them safely, even if they have never personally encountered a firearm before. This education can be the difference between life and death for both the child and those around them.
That’s why it’s critical for parents and guardians to take responsibility for educating their children about firearms, especially now that HB2332 has been vetoed. They should talk to their kids about the dangers of playing with guns and emphasize the importance of never touching a firearm without adult supervision. It’s also crucial to teach children what to do if they come across a firearm accidentally, such as immediately leaving the area and telling a trusted adult.
Moreover, parents and guardians should teach their children to differentiate between toys and firearms, as some toy guns look similar to real firearms. It’s important to emphasize that real guns can cause harm and are not to be played with, no matter how similar they may look to a toy.
Teaching children about firearm safety is a paramount responsibility for parents, guardians, and society as a whole. It’s not only about protecting our children but also about preventing tragedies. While the veto of the recent bill is disheartening, we can all take steps to educate our children about the importance of not playing with firearms. By doing so, we can create a safer world for our children to live in.
Arizona is one of the nation’s top Second Amendment states, and legislators are working to augment those constitutional protections – even though these new policies are highly likely to be vetoed by Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs should the bills clear both the House and Senate.
One of those pieces of legislation, HB2332, sponsored by freshman Representative Selina Bliss, deals with firearms safety training in Arizona schools. According to the House summary of the bill, HB2332 “requires school districts and charter schools to provide one or more firearms safety training sessions.”
The Arizona House also revealed that “statute currently states that the Arizona Game and Fish Department may provide training in the safe handling and use of bows or firearms for schools that request this instruction….In addition to voluntary training in the use of bows and firearms, statute allows any school district or charter school to offer a one semester, one credit elective course in firearm marksmanship designated as the Arizona Gun Safety Program Course.”
The legislation requires the district or charter school to inform the parents of the students two weeks prior to the training and provides an allowance for the students to be excused from the training should the parents request it.
HB2332 cleared the House Military Affairs & Public Safety Committee on Monday, February 6, with a party-line 8-7 vote. Republicans Payne (Chairman), Jones (Vice Chairman), Gillette, Harris, Hendrix, Marshall, Nguyen, and Wilmeth voted in favor of the bill. Democrats Blattman, Longdon, Peshlakai, Quiñonez, Sun, Travers, and Tsosie voted to table the bill.
In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News, Representative Bliss explained why she introduced this bill:
“I introduced this bill to empower our youth to gain respect for and to be safe around firearms. The problem this bill is trying to solve is firearm accident prevention through education, so that kids are safe from firearm injuries and death. Most children are harmed by firearms when visiting a friend’s house and become curious about an unattended firearm. This one-time education in grades 6 through 12 is a small start, but will open dialogue between teachers, parents, and children on the safe handling and storage of firearms. I also introduced this bill because of my personal experience as a Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) instructor as well as my experience as the Safety and EMS Director of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association. In these roles I have come to see first-hand the value of education when it comes to empowering our youth.”
House Democrats vehemently opposed this legislation before and during committee debate. The Arizona House Democrats’ Twitter account tweeted “It’s back! BAD BILL ALERT” and bemoaned the failed amendment from Rep. Longdon “to make the firearms training opt-in instead of requiring students and parents to opt out.” Rep. Travers also stated, “If you want your Second Amendment rights then you take ownership of it. Don’t put the burden on somebody else.”
Representative Bliss told AZ Free News that Arizonans should support this legislation because “this is a non-controversial safety subject that uses age-appropriate curriculum to teach middle and high school children what to do if they come across an unattended firearm…. firearm safety should be viewed as a life skills course important for all kids, similar to mechanics, wood shop, or cooking courses.”
During last year’s legislative session, a similar bill was introduced by Representative Bliss’s current seatmate, Representative Nguyen. HB 2448 was co-sponsored by Representatives Blackman, Bolick, Fillmore, Hoffman, and Senator Boyer. On February 24, 2022, this legislation passed the Arizona House by a vote of 31-28, with one member not voting. It passed the Senate Education Committee with a party-line vote of 5-3 before being held from final passage and transmission to then-Governor Doug Ducey’s desk.
Representative Bliss has confidence that “this bill will be considered, thoughtfully discussed, and passed through both chambers.” She hopes “both chambers can work together to keep our children safe!”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.