Guns

5th graders learn to shoot guns in a Wyoming school gymnasium

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A school district in Wyoming has released photos of 5th and 6th graders shooting air rifles at targets in a school gymnasium.

Screenshot of Hot Springs County School District #1 Facebook post.

A school district in Wyoming recently used a gymnasium as a shooting range, training fifth- and sixth-grade students in marksmanship during physical education.

Hot Springs County School District No. 1 in the small town of Thermopolis shared photos of the sniping session in a Feb. 2 Facebook post, and it quickly caught the attention of thousands. . McClatchy News obtained a screenshot of the Facebook post, which is no longer publicly available.

In the photos, the children are seen pointing air rifles across the gymnasium at a set of targets leaning against the bleachers with what appears to be plywood.

Often a child’s introduction to the world of firearms, air rifles typically use gas stored in a small cartridge to propel a BB or pellet out of the barrel at a relatively high velocity. Although much less lethal than real firearms, they can cause serious damage in certain circumstances.

“All students passed their safety test and honed their skills,” the post read.

By the morning of February 8, the post had garnered 13,000 reactions and 5,700 comments and had been shared over 60,000 times. For perspective, the population of Thermopolis is approximately 2,700.

“This is what America needs most,” one comment read. “Education and Responsible Gun Ownership.”

“This is so awesome! Probably one of the safest schools in the country too,” wrote one commenter. “I need to find a school like this for my son once he is old enough!”

‘CA hides its kids, Wyoming teaches marksmanship,’ another said.

Of the nearly 6,000 comments, most are in favor of the district.

Still, many have expressed concern and anger.

“America is dystopian hell,” said one commentator.

Some have suggested that by teaching children to handle a gun, the school could be preparing for tragedy.

“Do they go straight from their firearms training to their active shooting exercises?” asked another.

In a statement to McClatchy News, District Superintendent Dustin Hunt and Chairman of the Board Sherman Skelton said while they were sorry anyone was offended by the post, the three-week rifle course at Compressed air is convenient for Hot Springs students.

“One of the many beauties of public education is that locally elected school boards help shape the curriculum to match community standards and needs,” the statement said. “In Wyoming, the vast majority of households have guns. It is important for students to safely learn and respect the things they will encounter in their daily lives. »

Hunt and Skelton added that students aren’t required to participate if they don’t want to, and that an “alternate assignment” is available.

“To date, no student has requested another unit or assignment,” the statement said.

With students so often victims and perpetrators of mass shootings, the idea that firearms of all kinds would be welcome in a school is shocking to some. But across the country, school districts have trap shooting clubs and teams, or JROTC programs that train members to shoot and compete with air rifles.

Such programs have come under increased surveillance since 2018, after Nikolas Cruz, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, shot and killed 17 classmates and staff. Cruz was a member of the school’s JROTC rifle team.

Despite the context of gun violence on campus, school-affiliated clay shooting teams and clubs bloomTime Magazine reported in 2019. Even in states with strict gun policies like New York, these teams aren’t just lingering, they’re growing in popularity.

Like any sport, shooting can be fun and even build confidence, students told Time.

“It took me out of my bubble,” said 19-year-old Sydney Gilbertson, who joined his team at 13. “It was the best thing I did in high school. If that had been taken away from the children…I don’t know what I would have done.

This story was originally published February 8, 2022 12:52 p.m.

Mitchell Willetts is a real-time news reporter covering the United States Center for McClatchy. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and an outdoor enthusiast living in Texas.