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Teaching gun safety to Philly youths

Controversial Blacks Guns Matter founder Maj Toure takes his gun education program to urban students.

Guns were allowed in a Philadelphia school this week.

Bright orange replicas used for making holsters were sprinkled throughout the classroom at YESPhilly Accelerated High School last week, with Black Guns Matter founder Maj Toure leading the way.

Toure is a leader in the gun safety movement, and YESPhilly is a nonprofit educational program where youth who've dropped out of school can finish their education and discover their talents and dreams.

“I think that they’re living in communities where there is a lot of gun access, without a lot of information, such as how to hold one," said YESPhilly principal Taylor Frome. "A lot of students need to learn safety, and there would be less gun-related incidents."

Summer students at the North Philly school learned about conflict resolution, de-escalation, urban culture, firearm safety and the Second Amendment with a theme of restorative justice during Toure's class, part of a week of workshops taught by Toure that included other activities focusing on justice-related issues.

"The gun-safety one is getting the most attention because it is the most dramatic,” said Frome.

Students were challenged with scenarios in the classroom, such as what to do if you come across a gun.

When the students were asked who can get access to a gun in 24 hours, three-quarters of the class raised their hands.

“If you do come across a firearm, don’t stick it in your pocket, talk to an adult," consultant Jeanine Cook told kids during the class. "You might think it’s cool, and you’re playing around and shoot somebody by accident. ...  It does have life-damaging effects if you allow it to."

Even the principal learned a thing or two.

“If you ever pick up a gun, keep your finger away from the trigger,” Frome said.

The students seemed to identify and resonate with the workshops.

Detwan Teller, 19, said the class taught him about "real-world, life things and real situations and discipline," while Isaiah Nelson, 19, said Maj taught "responsibility with the firearms, and he made it fun."

"I felt as though Black Guns Matter caught my attention and gave me something I wanted to learn about,” said Dymond King, 18. "I needed this information."

From what started as a license-to-carry drive, Toure's organization Black Guns Matter is growing like wildfire.

The Justice Week gun workshop took place in between stops on a 13-city, 50-state tour spreading his message.

His organization's mission is to educate urban communities on their Second Amendment rights and responsibilities through firearm training and education.

“I really feel like they were entertained and learned a huge amount,” Toure said of the school workshop. “Our future plan is to make sure that we can get this in public schools across America. That’s our long-term goal. Our short-term goal is to just stay open to any opportunities that may fall our way and just make sure that people are learning, especially young people. If that has to be a school setting, that will be tremendously powerful."