AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would have required public high schools to offer a firearms safety and training course was voted down in the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee Thursday.

While most lawmakers on the panel said the measure was a good idea and they liked the thought of providing an optional gun safety and training course for Maine teens, they didn’t like the idea of mandating it, without funding, onto an already overburdened public school system.

The committee voted 11-1 against the bill, with two lawmakers absent from the vote.

“The idea, I think is a useful one,” said Rep. Bruce Macdonald, D-Boothbay, the House chairman of the committee. “But I’m against a mandate on the schools or in any way adding this kind of thing to the curriculum.”

David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which had spoken in support of the measure, said after the vote he wasn’t disappointed and he understood the committee’s decision.

Trahan also said that he believes the basic goals of the measure can be achieved without a law change or a mandate. Trahan said conversations with the Maine Department of Education led him to believe there may be room for gun safety in the state’s existing Learning Results, which include segments on safety and prevention.

He previously suggested the safety program be modeled after the NRA’s Eddie Eagle gun safety program, which teaches young children who encounter guns to immediately leave the area and inform an adult.

Trahan said his organization would work with the department and others to focus on a model safety curriculum that schools could use if they chose to. That program would focus more on preventing firearms accidents with younger children in kindergarten through grade five than teaching students to use firearms safely.

“I think progress will be made with what we are interested in doing, which is, we want the first experience a child has with a firearm to be a benign experience,” Trahan said. “We’ve done a good job over the last 15 years reducing accidents and deaths associated with youth and firearms. That job will never be done until there is never a child injured by a firearm.”

Scott Thistle

Scott Thistle is the State Politics Editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. He has covered federal, state and local politics in Maine for nearly two decades.