School kicks out hunter education program.

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School kicks out hunter education program after two handguns are left in the building.

By Tim Renken, St. Louis Post Dispatch

12/22/2001

Are children in the schools at Tarkio, Mo., safer from gun accidents now that school classrooms cannot be used for Missouri Hunter Safety Classes?

At a special meeting Nov. 27, the Board of Education of the Tarkio R-I School District voted to end the use of schools for the classes. The hunter education program is conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Every person born after 1967 must take the two-day course to obtain hunting permits. About 30,000 people, mostly children, take the classes every year. Since 1988, some 400,000 people have completed the course, which teaches gun and hunting safety and hunter ethics.

School rooms at Tarkio in northwest Missouri have been used for classes for years, as are school classrooms all over the state. Trained volunteers teach the classes. Many of the instructors are professional teachers.

The Tarkio Board of Education kicked the classes out of Tarkio school rooms because two handguns were left in a locked storeroom after hunter education classes the weekend of Nov. 3-4.

The two guns, one a .22, the other a muzzleloader, had been placed in an unused desk in the storeroom after the first class session Nov. 3. Nobody knows who put them in the lift-lid desk.

The rest of the several guns used in the class were removed from the store room after the Sunday session. The two handguns in the desk apparently were forgotten.

The guns remained in the desk until Nov. 21, when they were found by a student who was at the school after hours with his father, who had business in the storeroom.

The child, a student at the elementary school, apparently didn't touch the guns. He told his teacher about them the next day. The teacher told the principal; the principal called the superintendent, who called the police.

It didn't take long to sort it out, though, when one of the Tarkio policemen recognized the guns as those used in the hunter education classes.

No ammunition was with the guns. Ammo is never around in the hunter education classes. The guns never were available to the children because the storeroom is locked except when workers are in it. If the guns posed even a slight risk to the children, or anybody, it is difficult to see how.

The following Tuesday, the Board of Education kicked the hunter education classes out, following the recommendation of Superintendent Michael Mendon. He was asked whether he felt that in booting out the program the school district had made its students safer from gun accidents.

"We did eliminate the potential danger of firearms being left in buildings," he said. "I took into consideration the fact that other sites for those classes are available in this area."

OUTDOORS Reporter Tim Renken

E-mail: trenken@post-dispatch.com

Phone: 314-849-4239
 


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