Note: we are republishing this story in light of recent reports that indicate firearm are now the leading cause of deaths for children and young adults in America. More on this here: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-firearms-leading-cause-death-children-20220603-cgn7uhbsbbaotjgfrvdayy2rqi-story.html
Hot Springs County School District #1 shared photos of fifth and sixth grade students learning marksmanship in the school’s gym during P.E.
The post, which is no longer available, showed the children aiming air rifles at targets propped up against the bleachers.
Air rifles are usually used to introduce children to firearms, and while they are far less lethal than actual firearms, they can still cause serious harm.
“All students passed their safety test and have been sharpening their skills,” the post read.
The post garnered numerous comments, with one person writing: “This is what America needs more of. Education and responsible firearm ownership.”
“This is so awesome! Probably one of the safest schools in the country too. I need to find a school like this for my son once he’s old enough!” a second person wrote.
“CA masks their kids, Wyoming teaches marksmanship,” another person commented.
While some people expressed support and praised the school district, many expressed anger and concern.
“America is a dystopian hellhole,” one person wrote.
“Do they go straight from their gun marksmanship training to their active shooter drills?” another person asked.
In a statement, district superintendent Dustin Hunt and board chairman Sherman Skelton stated that the three-week air rifle course is practical for Hot Springs students, and apologized to anyone offended by the post.
“One of the many beauties of public education is that locally elected school boards help shape curriculum to match community norms and needs,” they wrote. “In Wyoming, the vast majority of households have firearms. It is important for students to safely learn about and respect things they will encounter in their everyday lives.”
Hunt and Skelton explained that students who didn’t want to participate were given an “alternative assignment.”
“To date, no students have requested an alternate unit or assignment,” the statement said.
While some find the idea of guns in school jarring, school districts across the country have trap shooting clubs and teams, or JROTC programs that train members to shoot and compete with air rifles.
Despite gun violence on campus, school-affiliated clay shooting teams and clubs flourish, and even in states with strict gun policies, they’re growing in popularity.
Speaking to TIME, students expressed that shooting can be fun and even build confidence, like any sport.
“It took me out of my bubble,” Sydney Gilbertson, 19, said. “It’s the best thing I did in high school. If this were taken away from kids … I don’t know what I would have done.”
Sources: Idaho Statesman