Keep Dangerous Montana Shooting Sports Association Propaganda Out Of Our Schools

Hand with a gun

Imagine if your child’s school brought in your local meth dealer to teach drug safety to children. That’s not far from the equivalent of what the Hellgate School District in Missoula will be doing on September 17, when they will be bringing in the Montana Shooting Sports Association to teach gun safety to “boys and girls.”

The material that will be presented in the half-hour long assembly not only appears to have been written by someone who was himself a child in 1954 but dangerously encourages gun use by children and drastically overstates the number of Montanans who own guns.

The center of the presentation will be a story that advocates the idea that children should be repeatedly exposed to guns throughout their childhood: its characters, Scott and Anna, are apparently raised in a home where parents teach their children Screen-Shot-2019-09-08-at-10.14.33-AM.pngabout gun safety at the same time they will be taught about not riding their bikes in the streets and, that there is nothing more fun in the world than having Mommy take you on a tour of the gun cabinet, as the image from the brochure shows.

And there sure as hell isn’t a lock on that glass-windowed gun cabinet.

Finally, the brochure ends with the entirely unsupported claim that “approximately 90% of the households in Montana contain firearms,” the kind of claim that Montana Shooting Sports Association regularly makes to bolster its assertion that the majority of Montanans support their agenda, while the research about gun ownership is clear: “guns are concentrated in the hands of a minority of Americans.”

And that agenda is why the MSSA is a totally inappropriate organization to teach a gun safety course. Their agenda is to wipe out almost every restriction on gun ownership, from those that prohibit guns in banks, bars, and schools to those that allow employers to keep guns off of their own private property. The MSSA opposes background checks, restrictions on assault rifles, and red flag laws that would keep our communities safe.

They want to normalize the idea that guns belong everywhere, in every home, in every workplace, and in every child’s hands, and in the words of the MSSA’s founder and executive director, those armed people should start running around “eliminating” people they think are bad guys.

What the MSSA “gun safety” material won’t tell students or families is that increased gun ownership dramatically increases the risk of death. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention clearly shows that states with more guns have more gun deaths.

gun-ownership-vs-gun-deaths_2 (1)

Montana has the 7th highest rate of death by firearms in the country and “persistently ranks in the top three states with the most youth who die by suicide, and their method of choice is overwhelmingly guns.”

It’s breathtaking irresponsible for the Hellgate School District to offer this program that will undermine real gun safety, downplay the dangers of gun ownership, and present a one-sided, propagandistic view.

I urge you to contact the Hellgate Elementary District to raise concerns about this presentation and be wary about it coming to your local school if you live somewhere else. The Montana Shooting Sports Association sent a letter to the Montana School Boards Association encouraging it to promote the program and hopes to expand it across the state.

Even worse, the MSSA is encouraging organizations to pay classroom teachers to present the material, with no indication that it will be school board or even school-approved. From the entirely grade 1-3 appropriate Ammo Land:

Get your local gun club(s) to approve spending money to support Be Safe locally. How much money is needed will depend on the size of your community. FYI, the WMFGA in Missoula appropriates $3,500 per year for this effort and pays the teacher $35/classroom to deliver the program. The teacher is paid upon invoice for the number of classrooms she has covered.

This program, which Marbut claims has been delivered to 200,000 people in Montana, is neither educational nor safe. It’s dangerously incomplete, troublingly one-sided, and unbelievably irresponsible.

Hellgate Elementary and other Montana schools owe their students and parents better.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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    • I agree, Neal, that comparing a meth dealer to a firearms safety instructor is idiotic. Comparing a meth dealer to Gary Marbut – not that much of a stretch.

    • It’s frightening that you think this is a reasonable argument. I think teaching firearms safety is an excellent idea. Letting the MSSA do it, though, is a horrible idea, as both parents from Hellgate Elementary and I have noted.

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