Gov. Gary Herbert signed a measure into law that will allow public schools in Utah to apply for funding set aside for firearm safety programs.
Sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, the law creates a limited one-year pilot program to provide instruction to public and charter school students in the state for gun safety. Introduced last December, it passed the Senate 22-5 last month and the House 55-16 on March 10, earning Hebert’s signature last week.
“When it comes to the interest and the safety of children, we’re always looking at that,” said Scott Jones, Utah State Office of Education deputy superintendent of business and operations. “Any program that promotes their safety is a good program.”
Under the guidelines of the new law, which passed as S.B. 43 during the legislative session, a one-time transfer from the Education Fund to the Attorney General of $75,000 will be set aside in the 2017 budget for the program. The AGs office will then establish curriculum for the program and select a provider to deliver it to schools who request it on a first come basis until the funds are exhausted.
Although both Herbert and Utah Attorney Gen. Sean D. Reyes are Republicans, and the bill had strong GOP support, the program is mandated by law to be apolitical. This neutral position was done to help make the bill more acceptable.
“I think some conservative Republicans feared there would be an anti-gun vent to the presentation and I think some Democrats feared there would be a pro-gun vent to the presentation,” said sponsor Weiler.
Utah is not the first state to move towards training for youth in public schools. Last summer Louisiana lawmakers threw their overwhelming support behind a proposal to provide firearm safety and accident prevention training for elementary students in that state.
The law takes effect on July 1.