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In 2014, Jeremy Roberts' then-8-year-old son was at a friend's house playing video games when the game controller's battery died.

A search for new batteries sent the two boys throughout the home opening cupboards and drawers, where they came upon a loaded firearm, Roberts said Wednesday.

When the friend reached for the gun, Roberts' son slapped his hand away, closed the drawer and suggested they call their parents.

"I was so very thankful that my kid had been taught how to be safe with guns," Roberts said. "My neighbor's child wasn't."

Roberts' comments came during a Senate committee hearing, where lawmakers discussed a proposal to launch a pilot program for basic gun safety instruction in Utah middle schools.

Sponsored by Woods Cross Republican Sen. Todd Weiler, the bill would cost $75,000 and would create an optional curriculum for schools with an emphasis on alerting an adult when guns are present.

The bill also includes language for training students to respond to active shooter events.

"We teach them a lot in school," Weiler said. "What we don't teach them is what to do if they happen across a gun."

Saratoga Springs Republican Sen. Mark Madsen questioned whether the program would present guns as "forbidden fruit."

He said there is a lot of cultural misinformation surrounding firearms, and worried that the pilot program could be used as anti-gun propaganda.

"I'm concerned that we're moving away from gun safety to gun avoidance," Madsen said. "I don't want this to turn into something where it's perpetuating irrational fears."

And Heather Gardner, who is challenging Weiler for his Senate seat, questioned the bill's price tag and suggested a better step would be to study what gun safety instruction currently exists in schools.

"I'm not sure we need the fiscal attachment as large as it is, and I think it does need to be taught in the home," she said.

Weiler said he was open to collaborating on amendments to the bill to ensure the program's content was politically neutral.

He also said he had discussed with members of the state school board the potential of creating an instructional video that could be shown statewide, potentially decreasing the costs of bringing gun safety experts into schools to provide instruction.

The bill was approve by the committee in a unanimous vote and will advance to the Senate for consideration.

Twitter: @bjaminwood