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South Carolina lawmaker wants mandatory gun classes in schools

Topics would include the constitutionality of gun-control laws and issues concerning the underlying causes of gun violence.
Surrendered handguns are pictured during a buyback event in Los Angeles, Calif., on Dec. 13, 2014. (Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty)
Surrendered handguns are pictured during a buyback event in Los Angeles, Calif., on Dec. 13, 2014. 

A Republican lawmaker from South Carolina wants high schools in his state to teach a gun-focused curriculum designed with material "developed or recommended" by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

State Rep. Alan Clemmons recently filed a measure in the legislature proposing the South Carolina educational program require students to complete a minimum three-week class each academic year designed by the NRA. In his filing, Clemmons said the course would alter an existing course on the U.S. Constitution to emphasize the Second Amendment. Students would learn about gun rights, gun safety, and potentially attend shooting ranges, if legislators pass a complementary companion bill.

The NRA-endorsed Republican recommended topics for the syllabus, including the right to bear arms for all citizens, the constitutionality of gun-control laws, and issues concerning the underlying causes of gun violence.

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Clemmons didn't immediately respond to msnbc's request for comment. But in the measure he filed last month, he stated: "One result of hostility toward the Second Amendment has been an absolute intolerance for any discussion of guns or depiction of guns in writing or in assignments in public schools, which is an affront to First Amendment rights and harshly inhibits creative expression and academic freedom."

Zero tolerance policies in schools, he said, often shut down conversations about Americans' right to bear arms. Last year, a South Carolina high school student was arrested and suspended for submitting a creative writing assignment about killing a dinosaur with a gun. Clemmons told U.S. News & World Report that such policies allow students to believe the gun is an "evil instrument."

Also included in his proposed legislation, which he pre-filed last month, is the "Second Amendment Education Act of 2015," which would designate Dec. 15 — the day after the anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School — as "Second Amendment Awareness Day" in South Carolina. The measure also would require students as young as elementary-aged children to enter poster or essay contests themed: "The Right to Bear Arms: One American Right Protecting All Others." The South Carolina legislature, he wrote, would recognize and honor the top winners.

He reportedly hopes for a hearing before the House Education Committee early this year.

Opponents created a petition to fight the proposal, in which they argue staff should teach the entire Constitution as part of a curriculum designed by educators.

Less than six months after the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, Clemmons traveled north in May 2013 to convince gun manufacturers, who were dismayed by opposition in the wake of the massacre, to move to South Carolina. Each year after Thanksgiving, Clemmons' state holds a tax-free weekend for gun purchases.

South Carolina received an "F" grade and ranked 34 out of all 50 states in the most recent annual scorecard published at the end of December by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The letter reflects the southern state's weakening of gun laws in bars and loosening restrictions on firearms in cars last year. The Palmetto State doesn't prohibit assault weapons, require reporting of mental health information, nor call for background checks on private gun sales.

A different Republican, Gov. Rick Snyder, of Michigan, on Thursday vetoed two bills — backed by the NRA — that would have allowed some domestic abusers and stalkers subject to restraining orders to obtain concealed gun permits in the state. Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head outside of an Arizona supermarket in 2011, women leaders, pro-gun control organizations, and editorial boards of local newspapers applauded the governor's decision. The current law in Michigan, which received a "C" grade and ranked 14 out of 50 states on the 2014 scorecard, prohibits domestic abusers and stalkers from receiving a concealed-carry license.