Thermopolis: Gun Class Photo Gets National Media Coverage

Thermopolis: Gun Class Photo Gets National Media Coverage

Written by on February 10, 2022

A photo of Thermopolis students at target practice has sparked an international media frenzy, causing debate and reinforcing perceptions of Wyoming culture.

Hot Springs County School District #1 in Thermopolis is currently in the national spotlight. But, unfortunately, it’s for photos and a program that aims at a polarizing issue.

The pictures show fifth and sixth-grade students from Thermopolis Middle School using air rifles in the school gym. All the students are participating in the air rifle unit, a part of the district’s physical education curriculum.

Initially, these pictures were posted on the Hot Springs County District #1 Facebook page. However, a short time later, the district deleted the post as it “may be offensive to some viewers.”

Hot Springs Air Rifle Class 1

Hot Springs Air Rifle Class 2

Courtesy Hot Springs County School District #1

Several people managed to save and republish the images, leading to the national media storm.

According to the Miami Herald, as of Feb. 8, the post had garnered 13,000 reactions and 5,700 comments and had been shared over 60,000 times. The shares alone are 22 times the population of Thermopolis.

This post is from the Facebook page of Deer Blinds & Fishing Lines, a Youtube channel based in Canada.

Newspapers across the nation have published the photos, drawing a mix of ire and admiration for Thermopolis schools.

As of Thursday, Feb. 10, the story has been covered in the Raleigh News & Observer, the Charlotte Observer, the Gazette in Colorado Springs, and the Miami Herald.

Many social media responses to the images were supportive. Others were not.

“Do they go straight from their gun marksmanship training to their active shooter drills?” asked one commenter.

“CA masks their kids, Wyoming teaches marksmanship,” said another.

Hot Springs County School District #1 issued a statement to address the pictures and the program on Wednesday, Feb. 9.

“As a small rural Wyoming community with a K-12 district of 681 students, we maintain social media pages primarily to celebrate our students and inform our patrons,” the statement reads. “Our intent is to simply share the excellent work being done by our students and staff and we regret that any of our content is found offensive by others.”

According to Hot Springs County School District #1, firearm and archery units have been “a part of our school and community for many years.”

Many social media commenters are questioning the inclusion of gun safety courses in Wyoming – and Wyoming as a whole.

“Training the next school shooter young and providing the guns on campus nice,” one person commented on the initial post. Another user said the gun safety course was “literally raising possible school shooters.”

Edited 02/12/2022

This article has been edited due to misappropriated information. The original article includes a section of Wyoming Statute 6-8-14 which is not relevant to the issue.

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