Initiative would require sixth graders to study firearms safety
SALEM — Gun rights advocates have a filed an initiative petition that would mandate a firearms safety instruction class in the sixth grade at Oregon public schools.
The petition was filed July 11 by Ston McDaniel of Prineville and Jerrad Robison of Redmond for the Nov. 3, 2020, general election ballot.
Robison also is chief petitioner for a gun rights initiative in Deschutes County. The Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance would allow the county sheriff to block enforcement of local, state or federal gun laws the sheriff deemed as unconstitutional.
Initiative Petition 6 is the brainchild of Kevin Starrett, founder of the Oregon Firearms Federation, said Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Polk County), who is helping out with the initiative.
"In spite of the efforts of some extremist groups to simply ban firearms, rational people recognize that firearms will continue to exist irrespective of any law," Starrett wrote in an email. "Rather than fostering ignorance and fear, we hope to provide knowledge and promote safety."
Schools would be required to provide a firearms instructor certified by law enforcement or a national or state firearms instruction certification organization to teach the class.
The curriculum would cover how to respond to an unsecured firearm, how to safely secure a firearm if an adult is absent, safe muzzle direction, avoiding touching a trigger and semi-automatic weapon function "to demonstrate that removing … the magazine does not mean the firearm is unloaded."
The initiative also bans any material encouraging or discouraging firearm possession or purchase and any live ammunition during the class.
"A person does not have to support firearms ownership to recognize that there is always the possibility that a child might encounter a firearm in an unsupervised setting," Starrett said. "We want to make sure that young people have every tool to stay safe in such a situation. It seems obvious that a child who has had the opportunity to learn how to respond to this kind of event will be safer. We believe denying young people this knowledge is irresponsible."
W.J. Mark Knutson, pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, and Michael Cahana, rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Portland, were chief petitioners of an initiative to ban semi-automatic firearms. They said they oppose requiring sixth grade students to take a firearms safety class.
"This is a very poor idea for our state," Cahana said. "It accepts the status quo of guns as an ever-present danger, that there is no way to reduce the overwhelming prevalence of guns in our children's lives. We believe it is time to change the status quo."
Knutson and Cahana, who lead the interfaith coalition Lift Every Voice Oregon, proposed Initiative Petition 43 to ban assault-style firearms for the Nov. 6 election, but had to abandon the effort because of legal obstacles to the wording of the initiative ballot title. The group plans to submit another initiative for 2020 to ban the sale of assault-style weapons and high capacity magazines. They said they also hope to work with state legislators in 2019 to ban the kind of weapons used in mass shootings around the nation.