MANY PEOPLE may be wary of a gun safety program offered by the National Rifle Association to the Carroll County elementary schools. Some parents may object that there is no such thing as a safe firearm for young children. Others may find that a school-sanctioned program, replete with fuzzy animal mascot, stickers and coloring books, is a mere propaganda ploy of the gun lobby.
With those reservations understood, the county school system should still take a hard look at the NRA's Eddie Eagle gun safety program. It has been around for more than a decade, reportedly taken by some 12 million kids, so it's hardly an unknown.
Gun safety instruction could be valuable for youngsters, as long as it shows that these weapons are dangerous and the message is for children to keep away from guns, not to keep guns.
Schools already teach about the consequences of drugs and drinking, cigarette smoking, unsafe driving and sex. These topics don't always receive enough discussion by families at home. Gun safety is another such issue.
Carroll County Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning and State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes support the idea of introducing the Eddie Eagle program. But the county also ought to explore other gun-safety curricula, such as Straight Talk About Risks by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence and the Play It Safe, Be a Gunproof Kid program developed by the Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross. They offer different perspectives that might be better suited to the schools.
The rifle group says it teaches children who see a gun not to touch it, to leave the area and to tell an adult. It teaches that every gun should be treated as a loaded gun. Going beyond those platitudes, however, is where the NRA and its opponents bitterly divide.
A gun safety program for schools shouldn't ensnare children in that fervid ideological battle.