After recent coverage of an army visit to Whakarongo School, a New Zealand organisation is calling for gun safety to be included in the New Zealand curriculum.

The Council of Licensed Firearms Owners relayed this message after a Fairfax article ran in April, stating children in Years 9-13 were taught how to assemble and fire an assault rifle.

The article, and accompanying photos, caused concern for many, including Green MP Catherine Delahunty who said the visit was propaganda, used to persuade children guns were cool.

However, the New Zealand Defence Force has said the visit was part of an educational programme, used to teach children about leadership and it had been approved by the school.


COLFO chairman Paul Clark said it was not too long ago most boys' schools had their own cadet units that trained with firearms.

"Even today many schools have their own clay target and smallbore rifle teams.

Nationwide volunteer Firearms Safety instructors have provided firearm safety lectures at local schools over recent decades so students can sit the test for their firearms licence.

"Local clubs have provided practical shooting experience for school children on many occasions."

Mr Clark pointed out that shooting was a sport to be enjoyed by people of all ages and physical abilities.

"The art of shooting in itself teaches the user self-discipline, self-control, hand-eye co-ordination and other techniques. Most children are curious about firearms and those who are given the opportunity to handle them, thoroughly enjoy the experience."

The Greens and Labour have asked for a ban on guns in schools to be implemented but education minister Nikki Kaye said the Army and the school acted within the law. She has now asked for guidelines to be established on the use of guns in schools, a call backed by Labour MP Chris Hipkins.

"I'm not saying schools shouldn't have a rifle club like many secondary schools would do but I think the idea that the Army would take semi-automatic weapons into schools and let kids hold them and play with them, I think that's really inappropriate," he said.


Mr Clark said New Zealand had more than 240,000 licensed firearms owners and many children were already exposed to these.

"It's inevitable many young children will be exposed to firearms. Particularly in rural areas where a firearm is a tool regularly used by parents, family members and workers.

"Firearm safety training at an early age has been shown to lead to safer and more responsible firearm use in later life. Considering the wide use of firearms throughout New Zealand COLFO believes it would be appropriate to include firearm safety training in the curriculum."

Miss Kaye expects the guidelines to be drawn up within three to four months.

* Whakarongo School did not respond to questions from the Manawatu Guardian.