JEFFERSON CITY — 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 Missouri measure stops short of mandating the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program. But by putting it in state law, Missouri is providing one of the stronger state-sanctioned endorsements of a firearms safety course which the NRA says is taught to about 1 million children annually.
The gun safety legislation signed by Nixon also transfers the duties of issuing identification cards for concealed gun permits to local sheriffs instead of driver's license clerks. That change was prompted by concerns that the licensing agency's procedures had infringed on people's privacy rights.
Nixon noted the change in concealed-carry permits — not the elementary school gun-safety program — while announcing he was signing the legislation.
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 only a few states have endorsed the program with state laws, as Missouri has now done.
In many cases, the course is taught by police serving as school resources offices and the materials are provided for free by the NRA, said Eric Lipp, the NRA's national manager of community outreach.