Chris Rickert: Safe guns? Yes. Safe sex? Not so much
Lifelong urbanites like me should know there are certain parts of life we will never understand in the same way that rural folks do. Gun use, for example, triggers images of Saturday night specials and drive-bys and poor kids accidentally shooting themselves, not family deer-hunting trips.
So I don’t feel qualified to judge a proposal to provide firearms-safety training in high schools in response to Wisconsin high schoolers’ increased interest in target shooting.
I do feel confident in judging it against efforts to educate teens about a much older recreational activity with plenty of safety concerns of its own.
The bill authored by Rep. Ken Skowronski, R-Franklin, and Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, would require the Department of Public Instruction to work with the Department of Natural Resources, a law enforcement agency or some other firearms safety organization to create a curriculum for the elective firearms course.
Skowronski’s office spoke with 33 school districts and the Scholasti c Shooting Sports Foundation, and found there’s a growing interest in the SSSF’s Scholasti c Clay Target Program, according to spokeswoman Sarah Gibbs.
Gary DeSmidt, who works with Wisconsin’s clay-target program, said participation has increased by 10 percent or more every year since 2004 and now has more than 3,400 athletes.
“We have over 100 high schools in Wisconsin that allow trapshooting as a club sport, and the athletes can earn a letter in the shooting sports,” he said.
Of course, there are a lot of potentially dangerous activities teens can engage in that aren’t the focus of government safety efforts. Skateboarding comes to mind for this urbanite, given all those YouTube videos of helmet-less skaters taking one in the crotch as they try to ride the rail.
Motocross and auto racing sound pretty dangerous, too, as does pretty much every event in the X Games, the very existence of which suggests that when it comes to popular but potentially dangerous competition, there’s more for parents to be worried about than skeet shooting.
And then there’s the activity that’s been endangering teens since before guns were even invented: sex.
It’s noteworthy that 10 of the lawmakers who have signed on as sponsors of Skowronski’s bill, including Moulton, were also among those who voted in 2011 and 2012 to do away with mandatory contraception education in sex ed classes, in favor of an abstinence-focused curriculum.
There’s no doubt that abstinence from sex is the best way to keep from getting a possibly life-threatening sexually transmitted disease or from experiencing a life-limiting unintended pregnancy. But then, the best way to avoid getting shot is to abstain from picking up a gun or from being around people who do.
“There is zero downside to understanding the safety of firearms,” Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, an avid hunter and co-sponsor of the firearms-safety bill, told this newspaper. “The use of a firearm comes with a massive responsibility. In a state where firearms are part of our heritage, entertainment, sustenance — it’s imperative those using firearms know how to handle them and maintain them safely.”
Replace “firearm” with “sex” in this statement, and you’ve got a pretty good argument for teaching teens how to use condoms.
None of the lawmakers who supported the abstinence bill and are sponsoring the firearms-safety bill responded to my requests for comment.
I’ve been gun-abstinent my entire life, so I can’t speak to how pulling a trigger stacks up against, well, triggering pleasures of a more carnal variety.
Given sex’s longstanding popularity among teens, though, it seems prudent to provide them with enough information on how to do it without getting sick, pregnant or dead.
I’m also betting that for most Wisconsin teens, it’s way easier to abstain from the pleasures of gun sports than to ignore that feeling they get when an especially attractive boy or girl walks by.