The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

July 19, 2013

Gun-safety course not at top of list for local school districts

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 last week by Gov. Jay Nixon.

But the course is unlikely to appear in most Southwest Missouri classrooms any time soon, according to local school superintendents, many of whom said this week that they have not yet had any discussions about using it in their districts.

The new law stops short of requiring schools to teach the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program. 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 a million children annually.

The course initially was proposed as a mandate 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 was amended during Senate debate to make it optional.

Asked if he supported the course for first-graders, Nixon noted that it was optional.

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

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.

“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.

Some of Missouri’s school teacher and administrator groups took no position on the legislation, largely because it’s optional. It was unclear how many Missouri schools already are using the program, or whether the official allowance for it in state law will encourage more to do so.

“How many districts will do this is anyone’s guess,” said Brent Ghan, a spokesman for the Missouri School Boards’ Association.

Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff said the issue has not been brought before the school board, and that implementing such a course could be problematic if it were to take time away from classroom instruction.

“We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to teach kids at that level, and bringing in something else means something has to come off the plate,” he said.

Huff also said he doubts the course would get “100 percent consensus” in approval from local parents, teachers and administrators.

“I just don’t get the sense in Joplin that would be well received,” he said.

Phil Cook, superintendent of Carl Junction schools, said there have been no discussions in his district about incorporating the program into the curriculum.

“I guess I’m a little indifferent to it right now,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are higher on my list of things to do than that.”

Cook said he thinks gun safety is important, but the responsibility of teaching it shouldn’t necessarily rest with a school.

“I grew up in a home of hunters, and I was taught gun safety at a very young age, and I can tell you, as a parent and a son of a hunter, we would rather teach gun safety to our children than have a school do it,” he said.

Tony Rossetti, superintendent in Webb City, said he has had no conversations in his district about using the course in classes.

“If anything, we’re just skimming the surface right now before we make any decision about whether we even want to pursue it,” he said.

Neosho Superintendent Dan Decker said administrators have not discussed using the course, in part because he is newly hired and still getting to know the district and the school board.

“This will be something we discuss in the future and develop a stance on, but right now it is too early for me to guess what that stance will be,” he said in an email.

Carthage Superintendent Blaine Henningsen said administrators have talked about the legislation, but have made no decisions about whether to implement the course.

“We will meet with our elementary administration when they come back (next month), and this will be one of the topics we discuss,” he said.

Steve Wilmoth, superintendent of Seneca schools, said he thinks it’s possible that the district’s agriculture program could eventually implement a gun-safety course for its students, as there are already safety courses in place for bows and arrows. But a districtwide course hasn’t been discussed by administrators, he said.

Globe staff writer Emily Younker and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video

The NRA 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.”

1
Text Only
Top Stories
  • r072414msw.jpg VIDEO: Carterville company expands to third generation

    What began as Ray “Mac” McCoy’s side job in his home 55 years ago has grown not only in square footage and reach, but in generations. This summer, a third generation took over the reins of MSW — Mac’s Specialty Woodwork — that now exceeds 90,000 square feet and creates custom furniture for chain restaurants coast to coast.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Our View.jpg Our View: Scratch this off your list

    Missouri voters will go to the polls on Aug. 5 and consider a measure that would create a new lottery ticket devoted to helping fund the Missouri Veterans Commission.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • r072314techcenter4.jpg Southeast Kansas schools, businesses get behind new technical center

    When Galena Superintendent Brian Smith looks at the millions of dollars of construction projects going on in his district, not to mention similar projects underway in Joplin, Carthage and elsewhere, he sees the need to train masons.

    July 24, 2014 4 Photos

  • Hospital Shooting 2.jpg Cause sought for gunfight between patient, doctor

    Authorities are attempting to determine why a patient fatally shot a caseworker at a suburban Philadelphia hospital complex and whether a psychiatrist who pulled out his own gun and wounded the patient had concerns about him.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Landfill opponents seek answers

    The Baxter Springs High School auditorium was filled with hundreds of Cherokee County residents Thursday night as Galena city officials answered questions and listened to comments regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 24, 2014

  • Neosho athletes bring home silver

    For 19-year-old Dominque Dechant, it was the trip of a lifetime. She and three other athletes from Neosho traveled last month to Newark, New Jersey, as part of the Missouri Special Olympics girls basketball team.

    July 24, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Friday’s Joplin Globe.

    July 24, 2014

  • APTOPIX Vatican Pope.jpg Pope meets Sudanese woman sentenced to death

    Pope Francis met privately Thursday with a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, blessing the woman as she cradled her infant daughter born just weeks ago in prison.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Box Turtle.jpg Getting reacquainted with garden dwellers

    Visitors to my garden this week find me covered in dust and dirt with bits of wood, leaves and who knows what else caught in my hair; stinky, sweaty gloves; grimy sweat pants and rivulets of dirty perspiration running down my face.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • mug_sarah-coyne-112613-c.jpg Sarah Coyne: Older kids still find joy in toys

    When she crawled under her covers, she buried her head in her pillow. Then she looked up at me and whispered, "But what if I can't stop thinking about that spider?"

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo