Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation encouraging schools around the state to teach first-graders a gun safety course sponsored by the National Rifle Association.
The new law, which stops short of requiring schools to teach the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program, is one of the stronger state-sanctioned endorsements of the NRA-sponsored firearms safety course, which the group says is taught to about 1 million children every year.
Staff and student training were proposed as mandates when the legislation was filed on December 13, the day before the Connecticut school shooting that left 26 dead, including 20 first-graders. The provision about the first-grade gun-safety course was amended to make it optional during Senate debate.
“Allowing the local school districts to make those choices is appropriate,” Gov. Nixon, a Democrat, said.
The legislation, which also requires school personnel to participate in an “active shooter and intruder” drill led by law enforcement officers, was one of several pro-gun measures passed this year by Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature.
According to the NRA, more than 20 state legislatures have passed measures encouraging the use of its Eddie Eagle course in schools since the gun safety program began in 1988. Ohio became the first state to provide financing for it about a decade ago. But Missouri is among just a few states — including North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia — to endorse the program with state laws.
The program includes a video in which an eagle character teaches children four basic rules if they see a gun: “STOP! Don’t touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.”
“It’s teaching a great safety message to children that could possibly save their life,” said Eric Lipp, the NRA’s national manager of community outreach.