Two Victorian high schools are defending their actions after taking students aged 12 to 15 to a shooting range, just days after the Sandy Hook massacre.
More than 50 students from Ballarat High School and Beaufort Secondary College attended the Beaufort Gun Club two days after the US tragedy. Students were taught to handle rifles and fire up to 20 rounds each.
It has infuriated parents, psychologists and even politicians, who say the excursion should have been cancelled.
"I think this could have traumatised some, but not all," said child psychologist Dr Michael Clarr-Gregg. "But
to show a little bit of respect for what happened [in the US], and cancel it would have been a good idea."
State Education Minister Martin Dixon said the timing of the excursion was “inappropriate”, but added it was right of schools to decide the activities its students undertook.
Ballarat High School senior co-ordinator Michael Cook defended the school’s actions, saying he had second thoughts about the field trip in light of the Newtown tragedy in the US, but said the school was already committed to the excursion.
In a notice sent to parents, Ballarat High School advised students would learn how to shoot while being supervised by a registered coach, so would not need a firearms permit.
“Please, under no circumstances may students bring firearms or shotgun shells to school,” the notice said.
School principal Gary Palmer said the school had been running similar activities for a decade.
Gun Control Australia said the visit was "idiotic" and that children shouldn't be around guns at all.
Parents were also less than impressed with the decision to go ahead.
"I don't think it's appropriate at all," said one.
Another parent, Cherrie Wheadin, didn't let her daughter participate, but defended the school's actions.
"Country people need guns for a start, and they're taught from an early age," she said.
Earlier this week, 20 children and six adults were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the US by former student Adam Lanza, who then turned the gun on himself.