Missouri lawmakers are currently reviewing a bill that would make in mandatory for every first grader in the state to learn about an NRA-sponsored gun accident prevention program called the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.
Eddie the Eagle, the NRA version of Smokey the Bear, teaches children four steps when they encounter a firearm: “If you see a gun, STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an adult.”
According to Senate Bill 75, the purpose of the program is to promote safety and emphasize how students should respond if they encounter a gun. While teaching the program, school personnel and instructors are prohibited from making any value judgments about firearms, the bill adds.
So, in other words, it’s an apolitical lesson (neither pro-gun or anti-gun) that teaches children to be vigilant and responsible.
Yet, despite this, several parents and gun control activists have a major problem with the notion of an NRA-sponsored course being taught in schools.
“I think that having a pro-gun lobby implementing programs in our schools does not effectively deal with our nationwide problem which is mass shootings,” gun control advocate Aimee Patton told FOX 4.
Patton said she does not want her 6-year-old daughter to learn anything about firearms. She also claimed that the Eddie Eagle program was ineffective.
“The study from the National Institute of Medicine in 2004 showed the only thing that the Eddie Eagle Program did was effectively teach kids a nice jingle – so I think if we’re about funding music in schools, that’s great,” said Patton.
According to the NRA, the program is effective. Since its inception, the gun lobby argues, fatal firearm accidents among children pre-k through 3rd grade have been reduced by more than 80 percent.
Putting aside the debate over the Eddie Eagle’s efficacy, there are other issues with the bill. For starters, the bill also requires that each school district train teachers and school employees how to respond to armed intruders or active shooters on school property.
The bill states, “Initial training must be eight hours in length and continuing training must be four hours in length. All school personnel must annually participate in a simulated active shooter and intruder response drill conducted by law enforcement professionals.”
So, while the NRA picks up the tab for the Eddie the Eagle materials, the schools are responsible for the Active Shooter and Intruder Response Training (ASIRT), which is expect to cost around $16 million.
Some argue that these funds would be better spent elsewhere.
“If you’re going to spend money on professional development, let’s teach these teachers how to get these kids above proficiency,” said Democratic state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed at a preliminary hearing on the measure.
Others are concerned over the mandates. Even the bill’s sponsor expressed his disdain for making things mandatory.
“I hate mandates as much as anyone, but some concerns and conditions rise to the level of needing a mandate,” said Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla) at the hearing.
Given these concerns it’s unclear as to how much traction the bill will gain in the legislature. So, stay tuned for updates.
What are your thoughts? Should Eddie Eagle be mandatory curriculum? Should teachers be forced to train for emergency situations involving armed intruders?