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When legislators authorized shooting classes in schools, they didn't go far enough

My heart quivered with joy recently when I spotted a child, young enough to be in a stroller, playing with a plastic machine gun in Park Place. No more than 3 years old, the youngster was having a grand time fondling the faux weapon before gleefully pointing it at passing shoppers in an exuberant barrage of mock killings.

I gave quiet thanks to the parents who, with obvious care, presented their child with such a thoughtful and useful gift, one clearly intended as more than entertainment. This toy would teach valuable and necessary lessons.

So I sighed contently as I gazed at the chubby, blue-eyed, blond child, a specimen who might have made Herr Hitler proud. A child who in fewer than two decades will make our nation similarly proud as he defends our oil fields, oil fields that are now--through a geological mistake--in the hands of assorted foreigners.

The parents who so wisely allowed their toddler to play Rambo were evidently thinking ahead. With thanks to the infallible wisdom of the Arizona Legislature, when the child is old enough to enroll in one of Arizona's schools, he will be able to take advantage of a new ruling permitting schools to offer an elective, one-semester course in firearms marksmanship, a skill certain to prove its worth in the coming years.

But alas, I fear the Legislature, no doubt hampered by thoughts of re-election and political backlash, did not go far enough. As the statute now reads, only children 10 years or older will be allowed to take training courses in the use of firearms and, heaven have mercy, these courses are not mandatory.

So in the spirit that made Arizona the most forward-looking state in the union, I offer the following suggestions as an alternative to the ruling passed by our pusillanimous politicos. With the institution of these recommendations, the message will be loud and clear: Don't mess with Arizona. Our kids are armed and ready to kill.

The tot at Park Place provides irrefutable evidence that children who can barely walk are capable of handling weaponry. So courses in the use of an assortment of arms should be a requirement from kindergarten through high school. Besides acquiring skills, children will come to appreciate what the statute justly calls, "the role of firearms in preserving peace and freedom."

Children will be obligated to successfully complete a one-semester class each school year in an age-appropriate subject related to weapons. Since teaching children about guns is not enough in these perilous times, students will be exposed to as broad a range of weaponry as possible during the course of their education.

In the early years, children will concentrate on small-caliber arms suitable for developing eye and hand coordination. Mock gunfights (without live ammunition, of course) will keep the kids interested and inculcate the requisite desire to "kill" their pretend enemy.

Middle school is an appropriate time for students to be granted the privilege of real bullets. By now, they will have learned gun safety, so a field trip to the desert, where they can practice their marksmanship on moving targets like rabbits and quail, will give raging hormones a suitable release.

The use of automatic and assault weapons, as well as hand-to-hand combat skills, will be taught in high school. Teenagers will learn the fine art of wielding knives, how to use all those nifty ninja projectiles common to kung fu movies and how to off your opponent using a lethal blow to vulnerable body parts.

Some faint-hearted younger children may have to be coaxed before joining their peers as they embark on the most important lessons schools have to offer. To ensure each child's willing participation, brightly colored shirts will be awarded to all students who complete each year's course.

Children in the lower grades will be delighted to earn shirts in colors such as red, blue, green or yellow. By the time they get to high school, their eyes will be on the ultimate prize: a black shirt reserved for graduating seniors.

Imagine thousands of seniors, all across Arizona, standing at attention at their graduation ceremonies outfitted in identical black shirts. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

As for those parents who may object to the arms curriculum, they can simply home-school their children or send them to some snooty private institution where students focus on outdated subjects such as English or history.

But the rest of us will be able to sleep soundly each night, knowing that each year, our educational system can be counted on to churn out an army of black-shirted children ready to join the crusade for justice and the oil-soaked American way.

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