Kids and guns

Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2002

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Kids learn the art of hunting, survival

Kids receive enough mixed messages as it is without being handed guns in a school-sponsored program. I am responding to the article in the Juneau Empire on Dec. 6 about the so-called outdoor survival program for sixth graders at Floyd Dryden.

As I explained to the school board (as a former survival instructor), hunter education is not an essential outdoor survival skill and to couch it in such a way is deceitful. There are seven other essential steps to survival in Alaska's wilderness, none of which are gun related and all of which are part of sound school curriculum tied to Alaska education standards.

Hunter education is essential to families that hunt. Unfortunately, kids are doing more with guns than hunting and sports.

Guns are a leading cause of serious and fatal injuries to children and youth in Alaska, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate from guns for youth in Alaska is 66 percent higher than the rest of the nation. According to the state's Serious and Fatal Child and Adolescent Injuries in Alaska Report, on average, one child a week is seriously or fatally injured from a gun in our state. When it comes to children and guns in Alaska, suicide and suicide attempts is more worrisome, and results in 35 percent of the gun injuries or deaths. The suicide rate itself for Alaskan youth (ages 15-19) is almost four times higher than that of the United States. (Alaska Suicide Prevention Council 2002 Annual Report).

The most current research (The Future of Children Report) shows gun safety education that encourages kids to behave responsibly around guns is of limited effectiveness. More importantly, adults need to take responsibility for this problem by keeping guns locked up and away from children and not allowing unsupervised access to guns at all (compared to the what ifs suggested in the article). Most (60 percent) adult Alaskans have a gun in or around their home but 11 percent of adult Alaskans have not stored their guns safely. Studies have shown that even if hidden, children know where the guns are, and even if told not to touch them, the temptation is often too great. Most of the gun injuries to children and youth in Alaska occur in the home (46 percent) and only 6 percent occur in the wilderness.

I don't think it's the school's responsibility to be teaching our children to shoot guns and I question the motives of those who do.

Patty Owen


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