NASHUA — Students are voicing opposition to an air rifle marksmanship course that was recently approved to take place on the grounds of Nashua High School North.
Paula Durant and Hannah Farley are leading an initiative hoping to reverse the decision made last week by the Board of Education.
“Students and faculty are appalled,” Durant wrote on her Facebook page; she later deleted the comments.
Durant said in the post that she and Farley set up a meeting with Principal Nate Burns to discuss their concerns with administrators.
“I am so happy that an impressive amount of students came and spoke about how they feel unsafe and uncomfortable having this on school grounds,” said Durant, adding she has a friend who was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., when 17 people were shot and killed in 2018. In addition, she said Farley has a family friend who was at the University of North Carolina Charlotte last week during the deadly shooting there.
“My heart breaks thinking of all the students and faculty that have died, and I know the students of (Nashua High School) North feel the same way,” Durant said. “… We are all terrified. We don’t know what will be next. We feel that having rifles like this on campus is normalizing weapons at our school.”
Although air rifles do not shoot real bullets, she said it still feels unsafe to have them on campus.
“Air rifles look extremely similar to real guns, and we live in a dangerous world where even school is unsafe. We do not want weapons that look almost identical to real guns on campus,” added Durant. Instead, she suggested that the Nashua Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) utilize free transportation to an off-site location for its marksmanship course.
Durant did not respond to an inquiry from a Union Leader reporter Monday evening.
With a vote of 5-3, the school board gave the green light for the JROTC to provide its marksmanship course on a field behind Nashua High School North.
Maj. Brian Newton, who helps lead Nashua’s JROTC program, said last week that within the past 40 years since JROTC units across the country have been participating in marksmanship courses, there have been zero incidents.
“There will be significantly more injuries with any of the contact sports than with marksmanship,” he told the board. “… Please take emotion out of the equation and make a decision based on logic and reason.”
Although the marksmanship program was approved, three school board members opposed the initiative and had hoped that the JROTC would instead consider running its program about a mile off campus at the Horse Pond Fish and Game Club property.
Burns did not return a phone call or email seeking comment about his meeting with concerned students.
Adam Landry, a cadet with the JROTC program, told school officials recently that Nashua would not be the first school in New Hampshire to have a marksmanship course on its school grounds, explaining Salem High School has an indoor and outdoor range for its cadets.
“They are not classified as firearms,” stressed Jesse Kaplafka, another cadet, adding the rifles use compressed air or carbon dioxide.
Heather Raymond, president of the board of education, said the chance of an injury related to an air rifle is slim — unless it is aimed at someone’s eye.
Although board member Susan Porter said earlier that she supports the program, she said alternative locations should really be considered for shooting practice. “I believe that our schools should be gun free zones and the only people with weapons on school grounds should be law enforcement personnel,” said Porter.