South Carolina Considers Mandatory Gun Education At School
A pair of bills filed in each house of South Carolina’s legislature aim to eliminate the zero-tolerance attitude towards guns in schools by allowing or even mandating gun safety and Second Amendment-related curricula.
State Rep. Alan Clemmons, who introduced the House bill, says he was inspired to act by the story of a student who was arrested at school over a fictional essay he wrote in which he talked about buying a gun to kill a neighbor’s pet dinosaur. The zero-tolerance attitude towards guns in schools, Clemmons argues, is undermining knowledge of, and respect for, the Second Amendment.
“We are giving short shrift to the one amendment that protects all others,” Clemmons told The Greenville News.
Under Clemmons’ proposed bill, one-third of an existing nine-week educational unit dedicated to the U.S. Constitution would now be centered on education related to the Second Amendment, including textual analysis as well as history lessons explaining the amendment’s passage and the key Supreme Court cases it was involved with. Parents would be allowed to have their children sit out of these lessons.
Clemmons and his co-sponsors argue that it makes sense to give the Second Amendment greater coverage than other parts of the Constitution because the right to bear arms is what helps to preserve all other constitutional rights.
The bill has taken significant early flak, in part because it includes a proposed “Second Amendment Awareness Day” would have been scheduled for Dec. 15, which happens to be the day after the anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Clemmons says that is merely a coincidence, as he wanted a date that would fall near the Christmas break, when schools are less academically occupied. He has said he is completely open to using a different day.
Another source of antagonism is a clause requiring that the course content be either created or approved by the National Rifle Association, a pro-gun advocacy organization. It could not immediately be confirmed whether the NRA itself would consent to such a provision in the law.
The state Senate bill, proposed by Senator Lee Bright, is less ambitious. Bright’s bill would allow South Carolina schools to offer a course on gun safety, gun rights and marksmanship, but as an elective rather than as a mandatory part of the curriculum.
The bill wouldn’t let students bring guns to school, but would instead have them bused off-campus to gun ranges.
Bright, who launched a failed primary challenge against U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham last year, has a history of proposing gun-related legislation. Last year, he led a failed effort to allow citizens in South Carolina to carry guns without requiring a permit. Bright says this year’s bill was a response to critics who said universal open carry was unsafe due to a lack of widespread education regarding gun safety.
The two bills have a ways to go before becoming state law. Both still have to make it out of committee before being voted on by their respective chambers and potentially going before Gov. Nikki Haley.