Kansas lawmakers debating firearms safety training in schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Kansas lawmakers debated a bill Wednesday evening that aims to help Kansas kids know what to do when encountering a gun.

The Kansas Senate plans to take final action on the bill tomorrow.

The bill would require the Kansas State Board of Education to create curriculum guidelines for a gun safety education program. Local school boards would have the option to teach it in their district.

It could start as early as kindergarten and would be based on the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program. Older students could be offered the training, or the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism’s hunter education program.

Supporters said many kids are used to seeing guns, so they should know what is okay.

“Doing something that would help further our Kansas community across the state, no matter what your constituency is, with training on how to properly engage a firearm as a child,” said Wichita Representative Patrick Penn on the bill last week when it was passed out of committee.

Penn was a leader behind the effort to make sure this bill got a vote on the floor. Lawmakers said they’re hoping this training will prevent accidents with firearms. The Kansas House passed the bill in March in a 75 to 47 vote.

Now, lawmakers are debating the bill in the Senate. Some Senators expressed discontent with the language used in the bill. They urged lawmakers to adopt an amendment clarifying the use of lockboxes for the proper storage of guns. The amendment failed.

“If, in fact, training is offered within our schools, that we provide that lockbox, to make sure that guns are locked away safely so that we don’t have any more accidental deaths,” said Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita.

Faust-Goudeau introduced the push for legislation to be passed in 2019, after the death of Royale Spencer, a 9-year-old in Wichita, who died after an accidental shooting in 2019.

Spencer was at a home in southeast Wichita visiting friends. Police said he and an 11-year-old boy were able to manipulate and open a locked gun safe and began playing with the guns inside. The 11-year old was handling the shotgun when it went off, striking Spencer, who later died.

Faust-Goudeau said the bill does not properly address the issue Spencer encountered, urging lawmakers to adopt the amendment on behalf of his grieving mother.

Some opponents also said that the decision to implement the program should be localized as opposed to being created at the state level.

To learn more about the bill, click here.

Click here to watch the Senate’s discussion on the bill at the Kansas Statehouse.