Wednesday, February 4, 2015

From the House

Bluffton Today

I want to thank all of you who continue to email or call about the medical marijuana column. This issue has hit a nerve around the country, especially among folks who have not been particularly well served by conventional medicine. Sometimes people find relief from pain or disability from chiropractic, or acupuncture, therapeutic massage, or a host of non-traditional healing modalities. If medical marijuana is one of those non-traditional ways of getting better, and we can control the potential down side, I say let’s give it a go. At the very least, it will be easier to do legitimate research if practitioners can gather useful data without legal sanctions.

Continuing into another controversial area, I did get quite a few emails and calls about the recently filed legislative proposal to teach gun safety in public schools. In fact, the contacts were all over the place. Some callers thought I had lost my mind to even consider such an outrage. Others thought gun safety training is a reasonable part of a well-rounded education. There were, however, a pretty sizable number of folks who found it the funniest thing since Steve Martin put that arrow thing on his head, back before he was a respectable banjo player.

Before this ramps up into another of those “culture war” shouting matches, let me make a few comments. First, we are a largely rural state with a lot of residents who own guns. I have legal firearms, as do many of you. Gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right, which we restrict reluctantly, and only for the most serious reasons. One of those reasons is mental disability, which your legislature dealt with last session, after a near catastrophe at a school.

If the proposal were to replace core school curriculum with a firearms course, no reasonable person would go along with that, certainly not this legislator. However, we have extracurricular activities such as sports, or glee club or JROTC, which are important, not mandatory, and add to the richness and fullness of school life. We also have sex education, usually not mandatory, which helps to inform young folks about the unhealthy aspects of early, casual, or imprudent sexual behavior. It does not supplant the parent’s role in this matter, but, in the best case, will supplement the parent’s efforts. This is how I see a place for gun safety education in public school.

Every time I hear or read of a child finding a loaded weapon, in a drawer or purse, and shooting another child or a parent or themselves, it is beyond heartbreaking. If a non-mandatory gun safety class were to be offered in public schools, I know some of that heartbreak could be avoided.

So much of what passes for entertainment these days is simulated gun violence. Kids see an actor shot and killed on Monday, then see him again in another show on Tuesday. It is understandable that they may not understand that death is permanent. They may get the mistaken impression that guns are toys and not necessarily lethal weapons whose purposes are deadly serious.

Given the fact that firearms are a privileged feature of our society, I think it’s wise to have some sort of organized training or information available, with parental consent, in our schools. At the risk of building a false equivalence, I think we should be at least as aware and as cognizant of the dangers of improper, disrespectful, or careless handling of firearms as we are of improper, disrespectful, or careless sexual behaviors.

Well, friends, that’s my story, and unless I hear a better one from you, I’m sticking with it.