Why We Don't Teach Firearm Safety

What We Don't Teach

Most of these were after-school teams or day-specific curriculum, rather than conventional classes, which hides a lot. I'm aware of after-school inbuilding high school rifles teams in Massachusetts using 22LR into the late 1980s, switching to air rifle in the early 90s. New York had dozens into the 1980s. The establishment of Eddie Eagle-style programs is probably illustrative of when the collapse seemed inevitable even to gun advocates. There's three stories here :

  • One is the pragmatic. While rifle ranges don't seem very expensive to run, lead abatement and legal liability concerns spiked potential costs dramatically, and rifle organizations haven't been able to put forward the sort of scholarship funds or resume shine that make other after-school activities desirable. With hunting culture starting to become less universal in the 1950s even in Red Tribe world, it simultaneously became more expensive just as interest dropped.

  • One is the legal. While the Gun-Free School Zones Acts theoretically had specific exceptions for school programs, the form of the requirement and local interpretation has lead administrators to see it that exception as a trap. Don't establish a program, and the worst result is a couple Red Tribers getting in trouble for disobeying a bad law. Build one, and anything that remotely goes wrong on this topic will Be Your Fault in every news article for the next twenty years.

  • One is the obvious, and the overtly political. Gun ownership became so taboo for the Blue Tribe that the idea was unthinkable, and in even moderately mixed-tribe areas schools had to run the topic under the radar or lose it. But even if you did hide it, that just kicked the can down the road: the less visible you were, the harder it became to maintain membership.

Like Hogwarts a course on 3d printing or metal working or stunt driving or beating a polygraph, teaches hard skills and I would consider a mere piece of paper worthless compared to actually learning the respective skills.

So why don’t our education systems actually teach those skills? And why does it seem like they used to?

Some vocational schools do, and I've worked on after-school programs to make some of them available for interested students in other contexts. Generally, administration have given the following problems:

  • Liability, as you mention. There's little chance of Johnny welding himself to a table, or cutting off digits, with a calculator. Standardized testing (both NCLB or California's a-g) are common bugaboos, so I'll avoid spending too many words on that.

  • Section 503 cut both coming and going: providing relevant equal coursework to everyone with a disability ended up costing a lot on the tails which was easier to take from expensive electives than mainstream courses, and the broader industrial arts classes were least able to be adjusted for every potential disability. This wasn't as much an issue in its early days, but the increasing weaponization of the medical community makes it far greater a risk; this also hit home ec pretty bad.

  • There's little or no established modern curriculum involving these technologies, nor training credentials toward teaching these topics, and unlike the past, it's far less acceptable to have teachers without teaching-specific credentials.

  • The time investment to make a decent curriculum varies, but rule of thumb can range from two hours per classroom hour to ten hours, depending on topic area. While you can reuse some material, this turns a part-time job into a full-time one, and a full-time one into a lifestyle. Old curriculum like Forrest Mims can be useful tools to start from, but even the tools for woodworking have changed dramatically in the last forty years and still require serious labour hours. So serious first-mover disadvantage.

  • The increasing formalization of purchase orders makes a classroom that can suddenly need a 1k USD part on short notice far rougher. For short-term work you can float cash til the school (maybe) pays you back, but I've spent six+ months waiting before. On the flip side, you can put in a perfectly written purchase order for 6061 aluminium sheet and get bar stock from the 2xxx series the week before you need the material.