Read & React: Missouri Law Allows Gun Safety Courses for First-Graders
July 18, 2013
Nowadays, we're more used to reading about governors doing their best to stymie gun rights rather than expand them.
However, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon isn't much like his neighbor to the east. According to The Associated Press, a bill Nixon signed HCS/SB75 into law Friday allowing Missouri schools to teach a gun safety course sponsored by the NRA.
While teachers won't be showing kids how to properly handle guns or shoot — in fact, firearms are prohibited — the NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program teaches children how to properly respond when a gun is found, and also encourages schools to stage active shooter drills led by local law enforcement. Schools are not required to take part in the program.
"Allowing the local school districts to make those choices is appropriate," Nixon told The Associated Press.
The bill initially called for staff and student training when it was filed on Dec. 13, 2012 — the day before the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Conn. The gun safety provision was amended to make it optional during discussion in the state Senate.
Missouri is one of four states — including North Carolina, Texas and Virginia — to pass a law endorsing the program, which began in 1988 and has since reached over 26 million children, according to the program's website. The program materials — which are distributed from the NRA to schools for free — teaches children if they see a gun, "Stop! Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult." The law's language, meanwhile, prohibits teachers from taking a particular stance on firearms ownership.
"The purpose of the 'Eddie Eagle' Program isn't to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children," the NRA says on the program's website.
However, the new law still has some parents upset.
"I don't have a gun. My family doesn't have a gun. There is no reason for them to be teaching about gun safety when there are children with parents like me," said Aimee Patton, a Kansas City blogger, in an interview with CNN.
"I think I'm a lot more interested in teachers and the legislature being focused on math, science and reading for our first-graders instead of an NRA curriculum," another Missouri mother, Amy Jordan Wooden, told CNN. "I trust the parents to teach the kids properly about the power of guns. That is where the responsibility lies, not in a school curriculum."
State teaching and administration groups took no position one way or another on the issue, The Associated Press reported, mainly because the program is optional for schools, not mandatory.
"How many districts will do this is anyone's guess," Brent Ghan, a spokesman for the Missouri School Boards' Association, told The Associated Press.
Other addition to the gun safety program provision, the new law also makes local sheriffs responsible for issuing concealed carry permits rather than county clerks, which Nixon touched on when signing the bill into law — not the gun safety program