School Districts Propose Mandatory Firearm Declarations

Gun Rights

Recently, plans have come to light for certain school districts in Rhode Island, a state that bans firearm registries by statute, to require parents to make declarations about privately-owned firearms when registering their children for school. Besides its tension with existing law and obvious irrelevance to the schools’ educational mission, this move risks stigmatizing innocent kids and chilling the exercise of a constitutional right.

Modern gun control advocates hate the term “gun control,” as it underscores their tendencies to be busybodies and control freaks and their desire to dictate other peoples’ choices, actions, and even values. While they claim these impulses are motivated by safety, more often they are motivated by simple bigotry: gun ownership is a proxy for beliefs they don’t like. Knowing who has guns therefore gives them a shortcut for judging others. If that seems like speculation or overstatement, consider this article and judge for yourself.

Taken to its extreme, however, this tendency results in policies like firearm registration, which can enable actual discrimination and oppression in the form of repressive taxes, licensing fees, and firearm confiscation schemes. Short of that, there is a growing movement by gun control activists in and outside of government to use leverage in private online platforms and financial markets to deprive even law-abiding firearm-related businesses access to speech, services, capital, and credit. The supposed justification for this is that the businesses contribute to social ills. But the “reasoning” that underlies it is the same thinking that leads to social credit scores in Communist China, where adherence to officially-established orthodoxy is considered as necessary to being a good citizen as compliance with the law and to private contracts. The line between encouraging “good behavior” and outright blacklisting, however, can easily be blurred, and usually there is even less recourse than with official legal proceedings.

News of the proposals came from the agendas of school board meetings for the North Kingstown and Bristol Warren School Committees, which were picked up and reported upon by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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A copy of the North Kingstown resolution indicates, “School districts across the country have begun to proactively send materials home to parents and guardians informing them of applicable firearm storage laws and firearm secure storage best practices.”

While it’s debatable whether school districts have the legal or practical expertise to opine on these matters, the provision of information, of whatever quality or reliability, is one thing. But the resolution proposes to go further, directing the district superintendent to:

create an appropriate letter, in English and Spanish, to parents and guardians that explains the importance of secure gun storage and the legal obligations to protect minors from accessing irresponsibly stored guns, to be included in annual registration materials at each school site, and requiring a signature acknowledging awareness of secure gun storage responsibilities[.]

Even more ominously, it contemplates “local law enforcement agencies,” among others, would be used to “inform District parents of their obligations regarding secure storage of firearms in their homes.”

This raises a number of troubling questions, including why gun storage is being signaled out among the innumerable legal responsibilities of parents of school-aged children; what consequences would attend failure to fulfill the “requirement” of a declaration; and how “law enforcement” would be involved. For example, could a district refuse to register a student if the declaration were not provided? Would declarations (or the refusal to provide one) be shared with the media or other public agencies? Do the districts contemplate sending police to students’ homes to question their parents about firearm ownership and how any such firearms are stored?

It should be noted that while these Rhodes Island districts contemplate broadening their mandate to include gun control, the state’s public school system as a whole could stand to improve in its primary mission of educating children. A 2020 study — that used metrics such as graduation and dropout rates, math and reading tests scores, and median SAT scores — ranked Rhode Island schools’ performance as last in the New England region and in the bottom half (#27) of all U.S. States. Meanwhile, Massachusetts (#1), Connecticut (#2), Vermont (#5), and New Hampshire (#6) were all in the top 10 nationally.

Another survey showed Rhode Island near the bottom of all U.S. states in the percentage of residents who own guns, with only Massachusetts and New Jersey lower by 1/10 of a percent. Again, this begs the question of why school officials would prioritize this campaign in a state where there are relatively few guns to begin with and where schools are lagging far behind their regional peers.

Gun control and gun owner marginalization requires knowing who owns guns, which has given rise to registration, licensing, doxing of gun owners, and campaigns by activists to get doctors to record their patients ownership of guns and parents to ask about guns in the homes of their children’s playmates. Now the agenda has moved into schools, where activists are pushing “requirements” for firearm declarations.

Gun owners should take heed and work together to stop those who would restrict their rights or judge them for their constitutionally protected choices.

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