I walked into our Pella studio on a recent morning, and Dave, a friend and co-worker had a question for me before I even had a chance to put my computer bag down.
“What do you think about the gun legislation they’re considering at the Statehouse?” he said, or something close to that.
Like many of you probably are, I’m numbed by all of the mass shootings in America and angry that NRA-influenced Republicans haven’t allowed us to move forward on gun control measures that most Americans want. I know that Republican legislators in every state are working hard to increase Americans’ access to guns in more places, including schools. There have been 145 mass shootings just this year as of April 11. Gun deaths have recently exceeded violent car crashes as the leading cause of the death of American children from ages 1-18.
I don’t remember exactly what I said to Dave, but I probably mumbled that I don’t know much about it; why?
“Republicans want guns at schools, and they also want hunter training in schools. I don’t have guns in my home, and my kids don’t have guns in their homes, yet they want to expose my grandkids to gun culture when neither I, my wife or my kids, and their spouses want that. We don’t want anything to do with it,” he said.
Or something like that. And I’m not a good enough writer to be able to describe how frustrated Dave is.
What he said and what I was thinking and said at the time are a blur, but here is some of it: Republicans are hammering our public schools, underfunding them to make sure they underperform, banning books, demanding important curriculum be cut, not letting history they don’t like being taught, making teachers do more with less, demoralizing them, driving them from the profession which will make our schools worse, making teachers out gay and trans kids even if it puts them in harm’s way, and more.
And all of this while giving public money to fund private schools with no fiscal accountability for the ultimate purpose of taking public money meant to further the public good and putting it into private hands and schools that reinforce Republican ideology. Republicans say it’s about school choice. It’s not. It’s about ideology and power. I wrote about that here.
The legislation Dave was referring to is House File 654. Part of that legislation allows guns on school grounds. Like Dave and the Democrats in the Legislature, I don’t believe guns should be allowed on school grounds.
My concern here, however, is the section that encourages teaching “firearm safety.” This is what Dave and I talked most about — the introduction of kids to the gun subculture even though their parents want no part of. Let me say here I understand the role guns play in rural America. I wrote about it five years ago in the New York Times.
While the title of the relevant section of the bill is “Firearm Safety Instruction Programs in Schools,” this isn’t what it’s really about. What it’s really about is the indoctrination of students into that subculture. And who is going to do that indoctrination? The NRA.
Yes, the NRA. The organization that has for generations been actively undermining all efforts to bring into law common sense gun regulations that the American people want. That NRA. The NRA that lobbies against gun registration, red flag laws, and assault weapons bans. The NRA that lobbies against needed regulations that would help prevent mass shootings in schools is now going to be in Iowa schools indoctrinating our children into their worldview should this legislation pass. The very organization that serves as a catalyst for school shootings will be in our schools from kindergarten through grade 12 before some of our kids can even read.
Seem hard to believe? The relevant section is below (I don’t see a similar section in the companion bill in the Senate, Senate File 543).
It appears that these programs are to be “offered or made available” and that schools are “encouraged” to implement the model in kindergarten through grade 6 based on the NRA’s Eddie Eagle programming. This is insidious. Before some kids can even read, gradually and subtly, the NRA is using cartoons to teach kids an important lesson — to be safe around guns. But at the same time, they are normalizing the NRA and its policies that are an ever-present and increasing danger to public health, especially to our children. And they are doing it in the most effective way possible with this age group. With cartoons.
Look at the NRA’s Eddie Eagle and the Wing Team! Aren’t they a fun group? Is there a character your elementary school-aged kids or grandkids might identify with? They provide a lesson in a little over eight minutes. “STOP! Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown-up!” (I’m going to resist going down the rabbit hole of deconstructing this cartoon, although I am tempted.)
I believe kids should learn about gun safety, but it could be part of a lesson in health classes, for example. Or in a once-a-year classroom lesson or assembly (some people will say here that only the NRA offers such lessons; that’s a lame excuse).
But this legislation doesn’t call for a lesson. It calls for programs based on those offered by the NRA. Courses. Instructors. How long will these programs or courses be? What will they cost? It says the program will be developed and distributed. By who? I suspect some private company is creating that curriculum now, and it will be sold to the schools or the state, and even more taxpayer money that should have gone into our schools will be siphoned into private hands.
It sounds like the programs can also be developed locally, and the instructor doesn’t have to be a certified teacher. When taking these courses, what won’t our children be learning that they should learn instead? And do we need classes every year? Of course not, but that will deepen the indoctrination.
Maybe the NRA will offer the courses for free! Why not? After the indoctrination, these little tikes will be gun owners and NRA members in a few years. And maybe even have MAGA tattooed on their foreheads! Or Trump on a cross! Or wearing an AR-15 pin on their clothing like certain Republican members of Congress!
The bill says schools should offer hunter education courses in grades 7 through 12. That proves it isn’t about gun safety. It’s about indoctrination. You can teach gun safety in a lesson. A hunter education course is a different thing. I have nothing against hunting. It’s part of rural life.
The tragic irony is that beginning in kindergarten, this legislation will normalize the NRA and its harmful anti-gun-regulation stance in our schools, even as more and more school children are being killed in mass shootings.
And just like taking public money and putting it into private schools to promote Republican ideology, letting the NRA into our schools’ curriculum will do the same thing. Our kids will have been indoctrinated into gun culture, the NRA, and likely the Republican Party. This is part of their long game.
There is another irony here. The effort to bring the NRA into our schools is apparently bipartisan. If so, Democrats are playing into Republican hands.
I suspect Dave and I will be talking about this part of it Monday morning.