By NH State Representative Hershel Nunez
Over the weekend I heard that the Nashua School Board was going to be taking up a decision on the Marksmanship Program that the Nashua North JROTC wanted to implement to allow members of the JROTC to be able to be trained on the proper use of pellet air rifles and to be allowed to compete in air rifle competitions. There had been much discussion about this subject from previous meetings and within the school itself from students, teachers, the public and of course lobbyist groups who are opposed to the idea. I decided to attend the meeting, unaware that the decisions of the topic may be private and that the public may not be able to speak, however, this was not exactly the case.
After a short presentation by their CTE program, the President of the School Board made a motion to move the topic of the marksmanship program to the beginning of the meeting and allow the public to speak. By the way, it was a packed house. There were many parents, concerned citizens, current and past legislators, friends, and the most important of all was the presence of the Nashua North JROTC, of whom, a student member, a Cadet Colonel, offered testimony to the board with the most comprehensive layout for the program answering quite a number of questions about the program, setting straight many misnomers of information and telling the board and the public how this program could work in a very secure and safe manner on the campus.
Most air rifle marksmanship courses are performed indoors. When you’re using those types of training rifles, which by the way are pellet rifles, not bullet rifles, outdoor conditions can highly hamper the proficiency of a composite or lead pellet in a 30 ft. course. I, myself, have competed in amateur pellet rifle competitions in the past, and have seen other competitions, but all held at an indoor range.
The topic of the meeting was not whether or not the course could happen, it was where it should happen. Many people testified to their fears of bullets, their fears of normalizing firearms, their fears of death. All of these topics are valid topics to discuss. But, mostly, people were there in support of the program and really wanted to talk about the “where” part, on school grounds, or off school grounds. The president of the school board brought up the subject of “free busing” for the students and the possibility of this program being implemented offsite at a nearby indoor range. A few spoke to that. I spoke against that.
Although I am not a resident of Nashua, nor do I have children in any of the schools in Nashua, I signed up to speak and was allowed to do so. After thanking the board and the public for the opportunity, I commended the young Cadet who had previously spoken so eloquently and offered to him to consider the legislature.
There were a few points that I wanted to convey to the school board.
The first, simply, is that I am a Representative from a neighboring town, some would consider in the Greater Nashua Area, I’m from Pelham. I wanted the school board to consider that the smaller towns around Nashua sometimes look toward Nashua in instances where they may be affected by a type of vote or policy or even how to implement something similar.
Secondly, I wanted to convey that the program should be held on campus, indoors for a couple of reasons. Having students use “free busing”, shipping them off to another location to be provided this type of training would and could alienate them, making them feel like they don’t belong on campus. Also, the time it would take to leave the school, take the bus, perform their training, bus back, and then try to catch their own school bus home (the late bus) may not be viable in the course of “time”. These children may have other obligations such as homework, family obligations or even a job, and because they already have a heavy schedule with school and their normal attendance within the JROTC program, it may be better to keep the course on campus, making sure it’s safe and secure for all.
Thirdly, to make it an indoor range so that the students could really practice precision and safety in a very controlled environment. And, lastly, I suggested to them that the course should be opened up to all students who want to attend and not only to the JROTC.
The last suggestion is of high importance to me and others who feel it could be a wonderful opportunity for our children who are students in this school or other schools to be able to learn how to be responsible with a beginner type of firearm such as an air rifle and for these students to be able to learn about the firearm laws of the State of New Hampshire and to be taught about precision marksmanship and hunting. I conveyed that this should be considered an educational course that defines responsibility in use and ownership of a firearm.
After the school board heard all of the testimony, that went on literally for hours, they deliberated in private and came back with a motion to postpone the decision for the marksmanship program’s implementation to further investigate all avenues to come up with a more conclusive decision about how and where to implement this course. But we all know, that sometimes this is a cover up for them to actually stretch out the investigation to try to deny theses students access to a highly competitive and skilled training that could be with them for the rest of their lives, whether or not they decide to go into the military.
Let’s all take the time to watch how this unfolds, to determine the rights of our students with the decisions of their parents behind them, and whether or not this school board and others decide to allow students to learn, become responsible, gain confidence and to have and show respect as Second Amendment supporters of our State.
We will keep an eye on this one!
Representative Hershel Nunez
Pelham, New Hampshire