A New Hampshire school board has approved a marksmanship program that would allow Junior ROTC Cadets to use air soft rifles while they practice on school grounds. The decision is causing controversy among community members.
Nashua High School North senior Paula Durant is leading the charge to get the school board to reverse the decision saying the last thing students want is to normalize guns at school.
“It feels like every week on the news there is something new about a shooting,” Durant said Thursday.
Durant can’t imagine why the school board approved a plan to allow cadets to shoot airsoft rifles on the field behind the school.
“It looks just like a real gun and I know students feel unsafe having them on campus,” she said. “If students are fearful, then obviously it will affect how they do at school.”
The approval came at last week’s board meeting after a presentation by Maj. Brian Newton who leads the nearly 100 local cadets involved in the program.
He made it abundantly clear the airsoft rifle is not a firearm and not a deadly weapon.
“It is inert,” he said. “It is made of wood, plastic, metal. It does nothing.”
An initial proposal to take the marksmanship program a mile down the road to a local rod and gun club failed, although it seems to be the more popular option among parents.
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Kelly Dinoff who has two students at the high school.
“There’s a shooting range down the street that they could’ve used and they’re just choosing not to,” said another parent Sonia Prince.
But Newton said moving off campus would deter participation.
He says the marksmanship club should be considered the same as any other high school sport. In fact, he says, it might be even safer.
“There will be significantly more injuries with any of contact sports than marksmanship,” he told the board.
For some parents, it’s not the about the guns, it’s the lead pellets they shoot.
“I’m concerned more about the lead contamination from that,” Dinoff said. “I don’t even know what long term effects would be to the environment.”
Durant has already organized a well-attended meeting for students to express their concerns to the principal.
“The room was packed, so many of us are worried about this,” she said.
And the students are planning to send the same message at a school board meeting May 13.
“I think the ROTC is a great program and they can have their marksmanship club, it would just be better for students to have off campus,” Durant said.