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Langley: Gun Safety Courses Aren’t The Answer

At its core, H.B. 498 relies on the idea that teaching children about firearm safety will prevent violence and suicide.
Brenda Payan Medina
(Graphic by Brenda Payan Medina | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Since the tragic events of the Columbine High School massacre, hundreds of school shootings have occurred throughout the United States. These attacks not only inflict many children and young adults with injury and death but scar the minds of thousands of others.

Despite efforts to address these issues, they nonetheless persist. We, as Americans and U students, are perpetually vulnerable to the looming threat of gun violence. Consequently, we must be critical and attentive to the solutions presented by Utah legislators.

H.B. 498, sponsored by Rep. Brett Garner (D-West Valley), is a misguided attempt to address gun violence and presents an out-of-touch, superficial solution to an urgent problem.

Rep. Garner’s Plan

H.B. 498, introduced to the Utah Legislature earlier this month, proposes a pilot program for an elective firearm safety course in select Utah high schools. The course covers safety rules, firearm operation, marksmanship and suicide prevention.

In an interview with the Daily Utah Chronicle, Garner explained that the policies of countries like Switzerland and Israel inspired him to sponsor this bill. According to Garner, these countries have more robust mental health and background check systems, but those policies are “tougher things to get through Utah’s legislature.” Therefore, co-opting the firearm education policy from these countries seemed, to him, a wise workaround.

While instructors are limited to using non-firing replicas on school grounds, the course allows students to discharge real weapons at a shooting range. The bill outlines, however, little-to-no enrollment or background check process. Students who enroll in the class must attend a pre-course meeting with parents and only need a parent’s consent to move forward through the course.

If the bill passes, the State Board of Education would choose three schools that wish to participate in the program. The chosen LEA schools will be eligible to receive grants to fund the development and gather the supplies necessary for the course. Schools may also use the funds the state grants to contract third-party providers for supplies and curriculums.

It’s worth noting that H.B. 498 is not the first attempt to bring firearm safety to schools. H.B. 258, introduced in 2021, is practically identical to H.B. 498. It didn’t get out of Congress, and neither should H.B. 498.

The Holes in HB 498

At its core, H.B. 498 relies on the idea that teaching children about firearm safety will prevent violence and suicide. However, this view fails to take into account a few crucial details. While requiring training for prospective gun owners may reduce rates of violence, children and teens often don’t apply what they learn about gun safety. Most school shooters and young victims of suicide are getting their weapons from home. Teaching teens marksmanship and firearm operation won’t stop that. It’s antithetical to the bill’s primary goal. The best way we can prevent children from misusing firearms is to stop them from gaining access to weapons in the first place.

The bill doesn’t solely fail at a rudimentary level, either. As was pointed out by past legislators when Rep. Rex Shipp (R- Cedar City) initially presented this idea, H.B. 498 presents potential liability issues for the state. The lack of background checks or mental health screenings also compounds this issue. An irresponsible or violent student could easily endanger classmates and instructors during a class trip to a firing range. In a state that continually alienates and strips students of their rights, we need to take this issue seriously. The blood of a shooter’s victims would not be on their murderer’s hands alone, but on our state’s as well.

Furthermore, the bill would have Utahns pay for what hunter-safety courses already provide, which participants and the federal government fund. To burden citizens with an unnecessary, costly system unneeded for civic and professional success instead of pursuing what is known to work is wasteful and wrong.

Lastly, to co-opt a policy from countries with wildly different attitudes toward guns and mental healthcare systems is a thoughtless blunder. It is akin to feeding a horse gasoline because we know it works for cars. We cannot expect similar outcomes without working from a similar starting point.

What Needs to be Done

If we genuinely wish to ensure the safety of our students, we need to prioritize the mental health of students and enforce proper gun storage. It is simple to grasp. A majority of Americans agree that how we handle guns is problematic, but our legislators, including Rep. Garner, continually refuse to sponsor appropriate policies.

Further, providing more civic and ethical education would better produce active citizens than funneling money into creating more interest in unrestrained gun ownership ever would.

The young people of America feel hopeless and isolated. We must give them the tools to connect with their communities and sow the seeds of compassion and rationality in their hearts and minds. Until we address and fix these issues, firearm safety courses are valueless.

Right now, gun violence unnecessarily plagues the learning environment. Unless we address the root causes of this violence and hate, firearm safety can’t fix this issue; it may even worsen it.

Legislators need to take responsibility and bite the bullet: regulate gun storage, prioritize mental health and create good citizens, not future gun owners.


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About the Contributors
Jeffrey Langley Jr.
Jeffrey Langley Jr., Opinion Editor
Jeffrey Langley Jr. is a political science major from Presque Isle, Maine. As an aspiring public servant, he is passionate about environmentalism, equity and getting folks a fair deal. He's a fan of musical theater, Dungeons and Dragons and doing what needs to be done.
Brenda Payan Medina
Brenda Payan Medina, Copy Director, Design Contributor
Brenda is a rising senior close to finishing her materials science and engineering degree. She has spent most of her life in Utah, and enjoys editing for the Chronicle because she gets to learn about different events and people within the community that she would not otherwise have known about.

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    John HedbergFeb 29, 2024 at 12:53 pm


    I don’t understand why the U doesn’t teach history or geopolitics anymore as part of the standard curriculum. No offense, but if you had any knowledge of American or World History, you wouldn’t be asking this question about the utility of firearms education, since the peoples worldwide who didn’t practice these skills are now largely swallowed up or enslaved (the Uighurs, Tibetans, & Falun Gong practitioners are currently being used for medical experiments, involuntary organ & fetus harvesting, and forced labor to make “sneakers & iPhones”. We rhapsodize about Equity & compassion, while they’re being enslaved and wiped out as “oppressors” in the name of both: Go figure~! People stopped reading books when they got addicted to drugs & technology).

    FYI, motor vehicles are used as weapons in mass killings all over the world, and also for suicide, and the American death toll from motor vehicles is many times that from firearms, without which we wouldn’t retain freedom or even life, be you don’t hear anyone saying “[motor vehicle] safety can’t fix this issue; it may even worsen it”, which is what you said about firearms training.

    Young people feel hopeless and isolated because they’re addicted to their technology & drugs (pharmaceutical & otherwise), and you’ll notice that mass killings didn’t really begin until TV & drug use began isolating people from normal social interactions in which stress & challenge (sometimes called “fun”) teach us how to deal with life and each other from an early age. Addictive tech and drugs now allow human beings to entirely skip out on evolution’s timeworn process for creating happy human beings~!

    What did pre-industrial people do? They practiced mindfulness (church, temple, synagogue, mosque, prayer, meditation, etc.). They worked from infancy, learning survival & trade skills that gave them personal satisfaction and economic power they could trade. They were constantly surrounded by a social circle who knew them intimately, and by God’s other creatures in endless diversity & wonder. They found friendship, family, meaning & purpose at first-hand distances where you could smell, taste, touch, hear, and see up close, all the time. They breathed life, rather than scanning it on some screen while they sampled boutique pharmacology to try and replace all the healthy sweat-equity and earned satisfaction that used to undergird their emotional state, things which gave confidence, comfort, and warmth because evolution identified them as successful thrival/survival behaviors & strategies (norms), and evolution remembers every truth God reveals~! 😂👨‍🎓

    Anyway, personal weapons were taken for granted for centuries, long before we had any mass shootings that weren’t a part of war, so telling yourself that firearms are the predicate to mass shootings is simply ignoring history. In fact, it’s usually when people are unarmed that bullies arise, and you’ll notice that it’s the locales with strictest gun laws which most often have the worst violence, since people who break laws aren’t more likely to obey gun laws than any other type, and so strict gun laws have become almost synonymous with gun violence in many urban American neighborhoods. History also shows that when it comes to murder and suicide, people will use whatever comes to hand, so outlawing firearms to stop suicide and murder is about as effective as outlawing plants (chemicals), tools (weapons), or gravity (physics), any of which can be corrupted to damage and kill in moments with no need for a permit.

    Meanwhile, defense skills prevent us from becoming dinner~!

    Just some food for thought, Jeff. Kindly,