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Report wants schools to tailor gun safety

Because parents have different opinions on what children should be taught about guns, gun-safety education should be designed by individual schools, a staff report recommends. After a rash of gun accidents across the state in June killed three children and left several wounded, the Legislature told the state Department of Education to devise a gun safety program for public education by March 1.

Education Commissioner Betty Castor has not yet seen the report prepared by her staff, district officials, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission and the Florida School Boards Association, spokesman David Voss said Thursday.

The five proposals produced by the planning committee range from establishing a gun-safety week to creating a department clearinghouse for districts to turn to for gun-safety programs and resources.

The state also should allow schools to develop programs appropriate for their schools, expand the school resource officer program to include gun-safety and require every school site to implement a security program, the staff report concludes.

The underlying concepts in the proposals are that communities, parents and schools share responsibility for safety measures; that those three groups need access to age-appropriate gun-safety programs and information; and that all school sites need to develop and implement security programs, said Frank Darden, head of program analysis for the public school division.

Darden acknowledged that if the report were to be approved by Castor and then enacted into law by the Legislature, some schools might not implement gun-safety programs.

Last December, Dade County unveiled a districtwide gun-safety program, the first in the state. Darden said other schools throughout Florida teach gun-safety in a variety of programs but that only Dade had a comprehensive, systemwide program.

The law that directs Castor's department to recommend gun-safety education also requires gun owners to take reasonable precautions to keep loaded firearms in their homes and businesses away from children under 16, such as using a trigger lock or keeping the gun in a locked box.

If a child shoots someone with a gun that was left out, the adult gun owner could be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. A gun owner faces a misdemeanor and up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine if a minor threatens someone with the gun or displays it in public.