Thank you to Veterans for Peace for their leadership in passing a national resolution on school based firing ranges.
Montgomery County has at least four high schools that operate the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). This program teaches students how to shoot rifles. The CMP program is the one where Nikolas Cruz learned to shoot. Cruz was the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Some concerns about Montgomery County’s CMP program:
More than Mechanics –Youth are taught the mechanics of shooting a gun, but they are not taught “when” it is okay to use, especially with regard to civilians. In an ancillary issue (military recruitment through schools), the American Public Health Association has issued a resolution of concern noting that youth are still maturing in terms of their ability to make risk management decisions.
Reducing Age of Onset is Evidence-Based — For high risk activities (substance use, delinquency, etc.,) delaying the age of first use has been shown to be impactful in reducing consequences. In other words,
Mental Health Screenings — Severe mental disorders (schizophrenia and bipolar) may not manifest until the post-high school years, so there is no viable screening mechanism at this age.
Lead Bullets — The bullets that are used in the air rifles are lead-based. Montgomery County Police have stopped using lead-based bullets in their rifle ranges and there have been examples of lead contamination in other high schools (e.g., Northern Virginia) due to rifle ranges. Montgomery County schools do not do testing either of the area, the custodial staff or students in the program. This is required under OSHA guidelines.
Below are some of efforts to support legislation and garner more transparency about the high school rifle range programs.
Maryland Draft Legislation — In the 2019 Maryland General Assembly, HB 523-Use of Lead Ammunition in Schools was drafted. The lead sponsor was a Delegate from Montgomery County (Del. Julie Palakovich Carr) and sponsored by numerous other Montgomery County Delegates. It was withdrawn but we hope to see it reintroduced.
Testimony to School Board and Maryland General Assembly –Peace Action Montgomery activists have given testimony to the Montgomery County School Board. We have also testified at the Joint Priorities Hearing for the Maryland General Assembly.