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Governor, Reconsider Gun Violence Bill Veto

August 28, 2004|Niko and Theo Milonopoulos

The menacing gaze of Arnold Schwarzenegger wrapped in Terminator sunglasses assaulted us again as we headed home on the westbound Hollywood Freeway. Since the gargantuan head shot first appeared, advertising the release of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" on DVD, we had passed it at least 100 times.

But this time the sinister image appeared especially threatening because we had just learned that the Terminator-turned-governor had vetoed SB 1177, a bill that would have encouraged California high schools to consider adding gun violence prevention education to the curriculum of health classes -- a bill we had personally lobbied the Legislature to pass.

As high school seniors living in Los Angeles, we became deeply alarmed when we learned that more than 500 guns were confiscated on California school campuses during 2001, according to the state education department. Although current high school health courses routinely teach us about the dangers of drugs, tobacco and sexually transmitted diseases, the curriculum rarely addresses gun violence, which is a leading cause of death among American teenagers.

Through our organization, Kidz Voice-LA, we have fought to get high schools across the state to educate students about the dangers of guns. After the bill passed the Senate and Assembly, we began applying for grant funds to help start developing the gun violence prevention lessons for schools.

But the governor's veto quashed the bill immediately, along with our hopes.

California law encourages schools to adopt a school safety plan; it does not suggest, however, that gun violence prevention education be made available to students. This is why state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena), who lost a son to gun violence, wrote the bill and why medical professionals, including members of Physicians for Social Responsibility, endorsed it.

Schwarzenegger explained in his veto message that he rejected SB 1177 because "the health curriculum framework adopted by the state Board of Education already addresses gun safety and violence prevention instruction."

True enough, but that framework is only a blueprint.

SB 1177 would have taken gun violence prevention education a step further by specifically asking high schools to consider adding it to the health curriculum each time school safety plans were reviewed.

Gunshot injuries in California cost millions of dollars each year, and the Trauma Foundation reports that in about 80% of the cases the taxpayers of California bear the cost.

Educating high school students about the dangers of gun violence would cost taxpayers very little compared with the price all Californians pay by ignoring the issue.

We ask that the governor reexamine his veto. His signature has the power to help terminate the gun violence that plagues high school students and others.

Is this too much to ask of an elected official who earned a fortune glamorizing gun violence through his films?

*

Niko and Theo Milonopoulos are co-founders of Kidz Voice, a group run by kids to provide them a voice in the political process.

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