Illinois has joined a select few other states that provide hunter safety education as an in-class program or after-school activity. The legislative measure, signed July 26 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, will bolster hunter and firearm safety for students. The bill was introduced in February by downstate Democrat state Rep. Monica Bristow, was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jason Plummer and enjoyed deep bipartisan support. Since young hunters must take a hunter safety course anyway, why not offer such training within their own school system? Not only will they learn early in life about safe firearms handing, they will be more likely to continue their interest in hunting. As this website has noted regularly, legal, regulated hunting is one tool state agencies depend on to manage healthy wildlife species.
In reporting on the new law, Fox News covered what would be included in such courses. Firearms safety, ownership and transportation laws, and how to ensure you are in compliance with local hunting ordinances will be on the syllabus. In addition, the responsibilities of owning a firearm, hunting ethics, first aid, wildlife conservation and bowhunting also will be discussed. No firearms or live ammunition will be allowed in the classroom, but students are offered the opportunity to visit a range as part of the course.
More and more states are adding hunter education to either during-session or after-school curricula. Teaching kids early how to handle firearms safely, how to contribute to wildlife management and how to embrace a long and storied history, only serves to build their confidence and enrich their time in the outdoors. (Image by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.)
NRA-ILA spokesman and communications manager Lars Dalseide said in the article: "While we need to see what sort of guidelines the state Board of Education sets, it’s encouraging to see Illinois agree to provide courses that teach the safe and responsible use of firearms. Hopefully, this will serve as a roadmap for other states that fail to provide such valuable lessons to our youth."
Iowa has already enacted similar legislation and hunting education is mandatory in two counties. Parents are allowed to opt out of the program for their children but, so far, none have. South Dakota is implementing a similar program in six schools in conjunction with physical education. And in North Carolina, hunting education has been an elective for approximately 15 years.
All of these programs are instructor-led, in-class options. The NRA offers a free online Hunter Education Course that can be used online only or as material for in-class and at-range instruction. So far, eight states have accepted the free NRA-provided course as an option for fulfilling state-required hunter education. Whether states choose to use the free NRA material or not, the more hunter safety courses offered the earlier in life, the more lifelong hunters will be brought up in America’s long-standing hunting tradition. Not to mention the species that will benefit from hunter-led conservation efforts and population management through legal, regulated hunting that keep herds healthy and disease-free.
About the Author: Erin C. Healy is the associate editor of the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum. She edited a lifestyle magazine on Cape Cod for 14 years and provided marketing services for her local guntry club prior to working for BLADE magazine and a regional recreational fishing magazine. She served in the U.S. Army, is an NRA Life Member, a National Wild Turkey Federation member and sends her Jack Russell Terriers to ground as often as possible. Follow NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum on Twitter @HuntersLead.