- The Washington Times
Thursday, January 15, 2015

A South Carolina state lawmaker wants students to celebrate gun rights in schools, so he introduced the “Second Amendment Education Act,” which designates Dec. 15 as “Second Amendment Awareness Day” and requires instruction on the right to bear arms for at least three consecutive weeks in the school year.

Rep. Alan Clemmons, a Myrtle Beach Republican, was motivated to write the bill after a 16-year-old South Carolina high school student was suspended and arrested for a fictional essay he wrote about buying a gun and shooting a neighbor’s pet dinosaur.

One of the stipulations in Mr. Clemmons’ bill requires schools to conduct essay contests with Second Amendment themes and provide recognition for statewide contest winners.

“Zero-tolerance [gun] policies have squelched discussion and teaching of the Second Amendment in schools,” Mr. Clemmons told The Washington Times.

If not addressed, a zero-tolerance attitude could create a generation that doesn’t understand the Second Amendment and views firearms as evil — even if used by law-abiding citizens, he said.

Not everyone agrees.

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Shannon Argueta, a liberal blogger often critical of guns, called the bill “alarming” and said she doubted a curriculum pushed by NRA supporters — Mr. Clemmons is a longtime member — would be balanced.

“I find the idea of having a school pushing pro-gun propaganda for the NRA to be pretty alarming,” said Ms. Argueta, a Florida mom with a 10-year-old son.

“For instance, the NRA would not approve of teaching children that the likelihood of gun violence (suicide, accidents and domestic assault) greatly increases with the presence of a gun in the house,” she said, adding that she wants to limit her son’s exposure to guns and fears that if one state passes such a bill, others may be encouraged to do similar.

In addition to the classroom curriculum, essay contests and Second Amendment Day, Mr. Clemmons’ bill would allow “reasonable” Second Amendment expression in school without fear of punishment. Students could be excused from all of the activities with a written note from a parent.

A version of the bill also has been introduced in South Carolina’s state Senate, and the conservative state is obviously very friendly to gun rights.

But Robert Cox, political science department chairman at the University of South Carolina, said that while the bill “may have a lot of support in the South Carolina legislature,” that bare fact may not be enough given other education issues on the legislature’s plate.

“It is likely to be overshadowed a by more pressing issue in K-12 education, namely the recent ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court that, in many of the state’s school districts, students have not been given a ‘minimally adequate education’ as mandated by the state constitution. Responding to that ruling will demand a lot of attention and even more money,” he said.

Scott Huffman, a professor of political science at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, added that while “nothing is impossible in South Carolina,” he doesn’t think the aspect of the bill that makes the course mandatory will become law.

Still, Mr. Clemmons has some support among the education community.

“As a veteran who carried a weapon in combat, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” said Mick Zais, who retired this week as South Carolina’s superintendent of education. “I believe that all students in America should be taught civics and the importance of our constitutional freedoms.”

No other states currently require education on the constitutionality and significance of the Second Amendment. However, some states have legislation to teach gun safety in schools.

Michigan, Missouri and Virginia all participate in the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, which educates elementary-age children on what to do if they encounter a gun. It encourages a four-step approach for the children to remember: stop, don’t touch the gun, leave the area, and go tell an adult.

Michael Brickman, national policy director at Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank, said that constitutional education needs a greater emphasis overall.

“Overall, I like the idea of ensuring that students are learning the constitution,” he said. All amendments, even the ones that are controversial — such as the right to bear arms — should be given equal importance and recognition in the classroom, he said.

State Sen. Lee Bright introduced the Senate legislation, which would introduce an elective course on gun safety and marksmanship but not make it mandatory, as Mr. Clemmons’ bill would, The Daily Caller reported.

Mr. Clemmons’ bill has support moving ahead, as two other Republican lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors. The next step is to move it through legislative committees.

“By teaching the Second Amendment as an important constitutional freedom, we can give our students a historical perspective of the role it played in its inclusion in the Bill of Rights and in achieving ratification of the U.S. Constitution,” said Mr. Clemmons.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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