Faced with a drop in the number of state hunting licenses issued last year, West Virginia lawmakers have proposed a plan they hope will bolster interest in that activity and increase the revenue and fees it generates: hunter-training courses for middle and high schoolers.
The bill, which has passed the Senate education committee, was introduced by Sen. Billy Wayne Bailey and co-sponsored by Sen. Shirley Love, both Democrats.
“We wanted to … let people take [hunting] up as a sport and be safe in the woods,” said Sen. Bailey, whose proposal has drawn international attention.
Such programs are not uncommon in rural areas of the nation, said Francesca Zavacky, a senior program manager at the Reston, Va.-based National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
Kenneth S. Trump, the president of the Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services, said he can see the value of such courses.
“Certainly if the hunting aspect is a large part of the community values and norms, … it makes sense for the schools to cooperate with the broader community to promote the safety of children,” he said.
But the idea may not have as much appeal in urban communities. A Maryland law that would have required gun-safety training for students was vetoed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 2001. (“Md. Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Schools To Teach Gun Safety,” May 23, 2001.)
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Under the West Virginia proposal, the voluntary, two-week program would cover wildlife conservation, responsible and ethical hunting, basic hunting skills, firearm safety, and other topics.
Students would practice with guns that cannot discharge a bullet, said Sen. Bailey, who envisions the course for students in grades 8-12.
In West Virginia, residents who are at least 10 years old can obtain a valid hunting license after completing a 10-hour course and passing an exam.
“A lot of these courses are given in the evening in the fall of the year,” when many other extracurricular and academic activities are taking place, Sen. Bailey said. The proposed public school course would be taught during physical education classes.
A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2008 edition of Education Week