House approves NRA-based gun safety program

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The Kansas House on Thursday approved a bill requiring the state Board of Education to develop guidelines for gun-safety education that would include the National Rifle Association-crafted Eddie Eagle GunSafe program.

The House voted 75-47 to approve of the bill despite criticisim over  the process for how it was formed by gutting one bill and inserting new language for the firearms training program. No hearing was held on the new bill.

“That is not good process. That is not they way we should be legislating bills up here in this chamber,” said Democratic state Rep. Jerry Stogsdill of Prairie Village.

“I think that’s shameful.”

Republican state Rep. Patrick Penn, the sponsor of the bill, said the committee followed the rules that are in place that allow for so-called “gut and gos.”

He said the lawmakers who voted against the bill in committee likely represented the voters they represent in their districts.

“I am not elected to represent the Association of School Boards,” he said.

“I am elected to represent my voters, those are the ones who went to the polls and those are the ones who said they want this bill.”

The bill, which awaits final action in the House, would require the board to develop a standardized firearms education program under certain conditions that a local school board could implement if it chooses.

The bill would set these requirements for developing the curriculum:

  • Gun-safety courses for students from kindergarten to fifth grade would be based on the Eddie Eagle program or any “successor program.”
  • Courses for students in the sixth through eighth grades would be based on the Eddie Eagle program, hunter education classes offered by the Kansas wildlife department or any other successor program.
  • Students in grades nine through 12 could take classes based on the hunter education courses offered by the wildlife department or any successor program.

Democratic state Rep. Boog Highberger of Lawrence tried to amend the bill so it would allow any other evidence-based program for teaching gun safety education.

Highberger said his amendment, which was voted down 75-47, would have provided more options in developing a firearms safety program than mandating one developed by a particular organization.

“This does not prohibit the use of Eddie Eagle, it just allows individual school boards to make decisions they think are best for their students,” Highberger said.

Repulican state Rep. Patrick Penn opposed the amendment.

He said the bill required the gun-safety program to only be based on the NRA program, not on the exact course recommended by the organization.

He called the NRA program a “proven standard.”

Democratic state Rep. Jo Ella Hoye tried to amend the bill so that guns and ammunition couldn’t be brought onto campus as part of the education program. It lost 84-39.

Democratic state Rep. Jason Probst of Hutchinson said the bill is tantamount to endorsing the NRA’s education program and putting it into public schools.

“We should allow training to happen if schools want it to happen,” Probst said.

“But we should not prescribe a specific program,” he said. “We should allow that flexibility for the school boards to decide what they want to do.”

Penn said the language in the bill is not an endorsement, but is only based on the tenets of the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program.

“It is very straightforward,” he said. “It allows for the flexibility of local school boards and for the state Board of Education to do what they need to do.”

Throughout the debate on the House floor, Penn fended off criticism that the bill would mandate the NRA gun-safety curriculum.

But Highberger said the distinctions in the bill were subtle.

While the bill did not require school districts to offer a firearm-safety course, he said, it did require them to follow a specific curriculum if they did offer the class.