Local reaction to proposed high school firearm safety course bil - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Local reaction to proposed high school firearm safety course bill

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Debate is in the capital, as the state assembly discusses a bill that would create a firearm safety course in Wisconsin high schools.

"...and to encourage the use of guns on school grounds is something that I abhor, I oppose as do my constituents to a person at this point," said Representative Gary Hebl of Sun Prairie.

"You describe the atmosphere in the schools you represent - and if they decide that that's an atmosphere that they'd prefer not to have these types of classes, they have every right," countered Representative Joel Kleefisch.

The bill, introduced by GOP legislators, would have the state superintendent work with the DNR, police and/or firearm safety instructors to create the curriculum for a high school elective course.

Dennis Fater of La Crosse has been a firearm instructor for many years who thinks the more education available, the better.

"The biggest benefit is they don't have time to develop bad habits," Fater said. "When I have adults come through my classes, they've often handled firearms unsupervised without really knowing what's appropriate and there's a lot of bad habits there that you have to get rid of."

Trap shooting teams are seeing a rise in popularity. The bill's co-authors say it's intended to give those students access to the safety courses they need to make the team, and is not necessarily focused on handguns.

"When you're looking at high school students, they're not old enough to have a concealed carry permit," said Fater. "So I would not likely cover handguns at all unless the school administrators wanted [it]."

Offering the course under this bill would not be mandatory, but would rather set curriculum guidelines for schools that choose to do so. Some schools already offer those elective courses based on level of interest.

"We're trying to figure out what is the purpose behind the bill," said Holmen's District Administrator Kristin Mueller. "We do have some concern that they decide they want to mandate that we have that as an elective course, that we must offer it for our students."

Those in opposition say the bill could create an environment where some would feel unsafe going to school. Proponents counter that the solution is not less exposure, but more.

"I think a lot of the fear you see with things like this is based on lack of understanding and just not having education in that particular area," said Fater. "What's unknown is usually feared."

Addressing concerns over whether teens have the maturity level to handle firearms, Fater said high school age students are easier to work with than adults because they are more willing to learn the correct way, in his experience. He also said key safety components in his course require the removal of firing pins and no live ammunition. In the bill, live ammunition is not allowed nor can weapons be fired on school property, however a result of the bill means guns may be present in some capacity.

At least eight states currently have such laws on the books. Idaho and North Carolina are also considering one.

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