Following a report in the media where NZDF personnel allowed children at a school to handle military rifles, there have been calls from some quarters to ban guns in schools and now the Minister of Education is planning to introduce guidelines to control such activities.

it is worth remembering that it is not so many years ago that most boys schools had cadet units that trained with up to date military firearms of that period including machine guns. Even today many schools have their own clay target and smallbore rifle teams. Many volunteer Firearms Safety Instructors have provided firearm safety lectures at local schools so that students can sit the test for their firearms licence, local clubs have provided practical shooting experience for school children on many occasions. Shooting is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and physical ability and it teaches self discipline and self control, most children given the opportunity enjoy the experience.

With over 240,000 homes in New Zealand with firearms it is inevitable that many young children will be exposed to firearms, particularly in rural areas where a firearm is a tool regularly used by their parents or other family members. Firearm safety training at an early age has been shown to lead to safer and more responsible firearm use in later life, just as defencive driving programmes have improved young driver behaviour.

Rather than ban firearms from schools, as has been suggested by some MPs, it would seem more appropriate to include firearm safety training in the curriculum.

School Boards of Trustees should also be free to judge what extra-curricular activities are appropriate for their own community.

In any event in developing guidelines for firearms in schools the minister should consult with the firearm community, particularly the Firearm Safety Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.