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Published in Print: May 23, 2001, as Md. Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Schools To Teach Gun Safety

Md. Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Schools To Teach Gun Safety

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Gov. Parris N. Glendening of Maryland last week vetoed a bill that would have made Maryland the first state to require gun-safety education for elementary and secondary students.

In a veto message, the second-term Democrat said that compromises made largely to satisfy gun owners and the National Rifle Association "are so egregious they undermine the overall intent" of the bill.

He said the bill "would create the clear appearance of the state encouraging young people to handle weapons and potentially furthering their interest [in firearms] in a time when we are trying to fight the scourge of gun violence."

But Mr. Glendening also said that he supported gun-safety programs for the schools. Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat and the measure's sponsor in the Senate, pledged to work with the governor next year on a bill he could sign.

"I understand the governor's position," she said, "although I think a year's delay is unfortunate."

Mr. Glendening had heard from many teachers opposed to the bill, said Debra Williams-Garner, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. She said their worries centered on the possibility that teachers might have to accompany children to a firing range, and that the NRA might have a hand in the gun- safety course each of Maryland's 24 school systems would have had to adopt under the proposed law.

A lobbyist for the NRA saw the governor's veto as disappointing. "This bill was about exposing students to the dangers of and responsibilities inherent in being in the presence of firearms," said Greg Costa, the Maryland lobbyist for the NRA. "For him to use his veto as a vehicle to attack the NRA is just shameless politics."

The bill would have required districts to find places for gun-safety education in the K-12 curriculum, but would have left the exact design of the lessons up to the districts. Districts could also have chosen between offering gun-safety or hunting-safety instruction in grades 7-12. In the final version of the bill, a requirement that the lessons come from "multiple sources" was dropped, raising the possibility that a district could adopt the NRA'S Eddie Eagle gun-safety program without alteration.

—Bess Keller & Lisa Fine

Vol. 20, Issue 37, Page 21

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