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A Hellgate Elementary Parent Speaks Out on the Montana Shooting Sports Association Gun Safety Assembly

Hand with a gun

Noël M Lindquist, the parent of a student attending Hellgate Elementary was generous enough to share this letter expressing her concerns about the Montana Shooting Sports Association’s pro-gun assembly students that will take place next week. While I urge you to read the entire letter for yourself, I have excerpted some of its key points, all excellent reasons why this is not an appropriate mechanism to teach children gun safety.

The MSSA is a fringe group that cannot be trusted to prevent accurate information

MSSA continually opposes gun safety legislation that would increase safety for Montanans. Oh, the irony! MSSA opposes suicide prevention education, tax credits for purchasing gun safes, and fines for leaving firearms accessible to children. Make no mistake, MSSA is a gun rights advocacy fringe group, created by an anti-government pro-gun nut as a rival to the NRA which he believes is too liberal. MSSA is absolutely not without political motive or agenda. MSSA opposes sensible gun reform, background checks of any kind, and assault weapons bans. There is absolutely no way MSSA can present unbiased information given their mission, background, and the work that they do statewide.

The MSSA is presenting inaccurate information to normalize gun culture

It also presumes that gun ownership is a normalized part of childhood for Montana children which is part of MSSA’s agenda. This is not the case for many of us, my family included. We do not own guns, have never owned guns, and will never own guns. Presenting to our children that gun ownership is a normal part of childhood is a problematic agenda that ignores the fact that 47.7% of Montanans do not own guns. Guns in American society are without question a serious public health issue. Let’s not sugarcoat or downplay the dangers of guns in our society by presenting them as toys for children to play with, name, and “muzzle.”

There are more appropriate ways to teach gun safety

While these statistics are hard to swallow, they are the unfortunate reality for us in America. Any quality safety educator should be well versed in this, along with the harms guns present in our society, and ways to protect our children from gun violence. No quality safety educator would present guns as toys, humanize guns, minimize the seriousness of gun violence, or put the onus of gun safety on our children. There are ways to present gun safety awareness to children that is developmentally appropriate – never touch a gun, get an adult immediately if you see a gun, treat all guns as if they are loaded.

The Moms Demand Action Model is More Effective

Be Smart puts the onus where it belongs, stating “safety is always an adult responsibility. Kids will be kids. They won’t always make smart decisions about their own safety. Always assume that curious or impulsive kids may find and touch an unsecured gun, even if they’ve been told not to. If a child handles a gun, a bad decision can quickly become a fatal one. SMART adults protect kids by storing guns locked, unloaded and separately from ammunition, and by making sure children are never in the presence of unsecured guns.”


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.

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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