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Missouri: Governor Approves Gun Safety Course For First Graders

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. –  Missouri schools  will be encouraged to teach first-graders a gun safety course sponsored by the  National Rifle Association as a result of legislation signed Friday by Gov. Jay  Nixon.

The new law stops short of requiring schools to teach the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe  Program. But by putting it in state law, Missouri is providing 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 annually.

The legislation also requires school personnel to participate in an “active  shooter and intruder” drill led by law enforcement officers.

Both the staff and student training initially were proposed as mandates when  the legislation was filed on Dec. 13, which was the day before a gunman  massacred 26 people in a Connecticut elementary school, including 20  first-graders. The provision about the first-grade gun-safety course was amended  to make it optional during Senate debate.

The legislation also transfers the responsibility for issuing identification  cards for concealed gun permits from driver’s license clerks to local sheriffs.  That change was prompted by concerns that the state licensing agency’s  procedures had infringed on people’s privacy rights.

Nixon noted the change in concealed carry permits — not the school gun-safety  programs — while announcing he was signing the legislation. Asked if he  supported the NRA’s gun safety course for first-graders, Nixon merely noted that  it was optional.

“Allowing the local school districts to make those choices is appropriate,”  he said.

The legislation was one of several pro-gun measures passed this year by  Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature.

Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed federal  agents to be charged with state crimes for trying to enforce various federal gun  control laws. The vetoed bill also could have landed Missouri journalists in  jail for publishing the names of gun owners and would have let specially trained  teachers and administrators carry concealed guns into schools.

But Nixon signed a less aggressive gun-rights bill last week, which allows  state employees to keep firearms in their vehicles and fire chiefs to get local  approval to carry concealed guns.

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.

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