They were commenting on Initiative Petition 6 that has been submitted for the 2020 General Election ballot by gun advocates.
The initiative would require that all sixth graders learn “how to respond to an unsecured firearm” and “how to safely secure a firearm.” They would also be forced to learn “the importance of never touching a trigger if a firearm absolutely must be handed” and “how semi-automatic firearms operate.”
The Statesman Journal editorial compared this “firearms safety education” with human sexuality education that is already required by state law.
But there is an obvious flaw in this comparison. All children will grow up to engage in sexual behaviors, but all children in Oregon do not grow up with guns.
Most do not. According to a recent CBS News report, Oregon ranks 37th in the U.S. in gun ownership. Only about a quarter of adult Oregonians own a gun. Nationally, the number of households with guns is declining, with a 19% drop reported by researchers at the University of Chicago since the late 1970s. We can assume the same is true in Oregon.
The same University of Chicago report indicates most gun owners are old. Again, nationally, only 14% of adults under 35 own a gun as compared to 30% over 65. Assuming that is true in Oregon, the vast majority of children would not be in a household with a gun.
Also relevant is a Pew Research survey that determined that Hispanics are about half as likely to have a gun in their home as Non-Hispanic whites.
All of this data suggests that a large majority of 11-year-olds, particularly in Salem, are highly unlikely to ever need to know how to safely secure a firearm or how semi-automatic firearms operate.
Given the absurdity of IP 6, if it does make it to the 2020 ballot, it is almost certain to be defeated. Our guess is that the gun advocates that are behind it know this, and that their motivation is really to use IP 6 to defeat sensible gun control measures that are also likely to be on the 2020 ballot.
Initiative Petitions 43 and 44 were proposed for the November ballot this year. IP 43 would have banned assault weapons and IP 44 would have required safe gun storage. Opponents were successful in challenging the ballot titles for both measures to run out the clock on signature gathering, but proponents say both will be back in 2020.
Political scientists have long known that having competing ballot measures on similar issues often causes all of them to be defeated, due to voter confusion or voter frustration with too many issues to decide. So IP 6 is probably really just a tactic to defeat any sensible gun control measures in 2020, and it may well succeed.
In the meantime, if you are asked to sign a petition for “firearms safety education” we urge you to politely decline.