State Journal: Muzzle-loaded debate; Whirlwind tour

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Although laws barring guns on school campuses are aimed chiefly at those with violent intentions, a 40-year-old Maryland law against weapons in school has recently been interpreted to include those whose goals are purely historical.

And so it was last week that House members found themselves hearing testimony from a Viking, an 18th-century American mountain man, and a Revolutionary War soldier.

The witnesses--actually modern historical re-enactors attired in period costume--were lobbying for passage of a bill that would exempt those who carry antique firearms and other weapons into school as part of living-history demonstrations.

After all, said Garey Jones, a Civil War re-enactor, "It's almost to the point of lunacy'' to consider his muzzle-loading musket to be akin to a modern assault weapon.

Until they were banned last year, school demonstrations were greeted with enthusiasm by students, Mr. Jones noted.

Not having such performances "takes an awful lot away from the education process,'' he said.

Showing how complicated state school concerns have become, a swarm of California school board members descended on Washington recently to lobby for a host of issues--without ever stopping at the U.S. Education Department.

Their priorities were federal aid for last month's earthquake in Los Angeles and targeted immigration funds for California's schools.

The group of 30 visited Capitol Hill and met with officials at the White House, where they also spoke with Thomas W. Payzant, a former San Diego superintendent who is now the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

Their four days of meetings also included talks with officials of the Census Bureau, about how children are counted; administrators at the Commerce Department, about technology; and Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, about student-health issues.

At the session with Dr. Elders, the group discussed the need for a coordinated federal youth policy.

"This Administration has its attention on kids across most agencies,'' said Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist for the California School Boards Association who helped organize the whirlwind tour.--MILLICENT LAWTON & LONNIE HARP

Vol. 13, Issue 22

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