Contact: Kent Keene, Senior Coordinator, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why it matters: Firearm safety education courses present an opportunity to educate youth on the importance of safe and responsible behavior around firearms. The curricula described in House Bill 2089, which includes the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism’s Hunter Education curriculum, present an opportunity to introduce students to firearms while potentially recruiting the next generation of sportsmen and women. Given the importance of hunting and recreational shooting to the American System of Conservation Funding, these opportunities represent an important opportunity to complement hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts.
As the Kansas State Legislature returned for veto session on May 3, CSF submitted a letter of support for House Bill 2089 (HB 2089) encouraging members of the Kansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to consider overriding HB 2089’s veto. HB 2089 directed the Kansas State Board of Education to develop age-appropriate curriculum standards for firearm safety education for grades K-12, including curricula such as the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program for grades K-8 and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism’s (KDWPT) approved hunter education course for grade 6-12. Despite this outreach, HB 2089 was not considered for an override vote, and Governor Kelly’s veto was sustained.
On April 22, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly vetoed HB 2089 due, in part, to concerns related to its effectiveness in preventing firearm-related incidents and issues related to legislative overreach in requiring the Board of Education to develop these curricula. However, CSF maintains support for programs designed to introduce students to safe and responsible firearm handling. Further, school districts that did elect to incorporate these curriculums within their district could have introduced students to hunting and the shooting sports. Given the importance of efforts to recruit, retain, and reactivate sportsmen and women, coupled with the role of sportsmen and women in support of conservation through the American System of Conservation Funding, the importance of opportunities that can reach such a diverse and interested audience cannot be overstated.
Finally, it should be noted that HB 2089 did leave the final decision related to the incorporation of these curricula to each local school board. Those school districts not wishing to include these curricula would not have been required to do so by HB 2089. However, CSF encourages all school districts to consider these curricula as an opportunity to introduce students to safe and responsible firearm handling and, in the case of hunter education, several other topics related to our sporting conservation heritage. Through these lessons, educators can take control of the conversation around firearms to ensure that youth are taught these critical lessons in a safe and highly controlled setting.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?