Missouri Senate panel considers bill requiring gun safety course for first-graders

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | 8:10 p.m. CST; updated 10:48 a.m. CST, Friday, February 15, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY — First-graders would be required to take a gun safety course in school under a measure a Senate committee considered Tuesday that was introduced one day before the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.

Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, told the Senate General Laws Committee on Tuesday that his bill was an effort to teach young children what to do if they come across an unsecured weapon.

Under his bill, the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program would be taught by a certified instructor in first grade classrooms across the state. The program is already being used in some schools, but it is not a state requirement.

"I hate mandates as much as anyone, but some concerns and conditions rise to the level of needing a mandate," Brown said.

Senators watched a brief segment of the training video during the hearing. The segment featured a cartoon eagle telling children to step away from an unsecured gun and immediately report it to an adult.

Brown filed his legislation Dec. 13, one day before the Connecticut school shooting that killed 26 people — including 20 first-graders.

School districts would not be responsible for paying the program's teaching materials because the state qualifies for a National Rifle Association grant. Brown's bill, however, is projected to cost districts more than $16 million for teacher training.

The measure requires teachers to attend eight hours of training on responding to an armed intruder inside a school. The state education department projects that substitute teachers will have to be hired during the days salaried teachers are engaged in the safety training.

One of the committee members said she supported the bill but wants to exempt her school district from the program because of its projected cost. Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said this program shouldn't be a top priority for her district and would prefer that St. Louis Public Schools spend money on math and science tutoring.

"I think we should be teaching kids to read, write and do math," Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said.

Brown disputes the hefty price tag for his bill and said teachers could engage in the safety course during other professional development training. After the initial eight hours of training, teachers would be required to undergo four additional hours every year.

The Senate General Laws Committee did not take a vote on the measure Tuesday.

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