LOUDON — The question of whether Loudon County schools should implement gun safety training for students sparked a lively discussion at a school board workshop Thursday night.
Loudon County Commissioner Van Shaver raised the issue in a letter to the school board last week in which he suggested firearms safety training for students in all grades, perhaps supervised by the school resource officers.
Board Chairman Scott Newman, a Loudon Police Department officer, kicked off Thursday's discussion by endorsing the idea, while at the same time emphasizing that, in his opinion, such education should really begin in the home under the supervision of parents.
"I don't want somebody else teaching my kids gun safety," he said.
Newman said he is concerned that many children have become desensitized to the improper handling of guns through movies and video games. He said he wouldn't object to basic safety training that would inform children what do if they are at a friends' home and a gun is discovered.
He said it seems more and common that the school system is forced to take on parenting duties not necessarily connected with education. He said he has spoken with the Loudon police chief about possible ways to provide voluntary instruction, perhaps through the National Rifle Association or a local gun club.
David Twiggs, a former county commissioner and local leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke before the board about a program called SMART that his organizations promotes.
The SMART program is endorsed by the National Parent Teacher Association and is designed to be implemented by PTAs with strong emphasis on parent involvement.
Board members Craig Simon and Leroy Tate raised the issue of liability and questioned whether gun safety training was the responsibility of schools that are already challenged to provide instruction with the limited time and resources available.
Board member Jeremy Buckles agreed that gun safety should start with the parents but added that he thought it might be a good idea to offer programs after school that would focus on core principles of gun safety.
Schools Director Jason Vance said he was concerned about the potential loss of instructional time. He said the school system already takes some responsibility for safety issues outside school, including urging students to wear bicycle helmets and teaching fire safety.
In an interview before the school board meeting, Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider expressed support for education as a means to reduce firearm accidents. He said he didn't think school resource officers would be the best way to provide the instruction because it might take them away from their primary duties of providing security for the schools.
Board members said conversations on the issue would continue.