On Friday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill into law that encourages schools to teach an National Rifle Association-sponsored gun accident prevention course called the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program to first graders.
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 course 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.
Nixon, a Democrat, tepidly endorsed Senate Bill 75, noting that teaching the program was completely optional and not something the state is requiring every school to do.
“Allowing the local school districts to make those choices is appropriate,” Nixon told The Associated Press.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dan Brown, emphasized that the bill was not about arming young school children, according to the CBS affiliate in Springfield, Missouri.
“If you see a gun, get away, and report to an adult. It does not … neither one of these programs include any firearm training,” Brown said.
According to the NRA, the program is taught to approximately 1 million children each year and has been highly effective. Since its inception in 1988, the gun lobby argues, fatal firearm accidents among children grades pre-K-3 have been reduced by more than 80 percent.
“It’s teaching a great safety message to children that could possibly save their life,” Eric Lipp, the NRA’s national manager of community outreach, told the AP.
In addition to the Eddie Eagle program, under SB 75, school administrators and teachers will be required to participate in an “active shooter and intruder” drill, a direct response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
SB 75 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.”
Lastly, SB 75 transfers the concealed carry issuance process from the Missouri Department of Revenue to local county sheriffs. The impetus for this measure came amidst allegations that the Dept. of Revenue was handing over gun owners’s personal information to the federal government.