Senate passes NRA-based gun safety program


The Senate has approved a bill requiring the state school board to establish curriculum guidelines for a standardized firearm safety education program that would include the National Rifle Association-crafted Eddie Eagle GunSafe program.

The Senate voted 30-8 to approve the bill, which Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed in 2021. A similar version of the bill died in the Senate last year.

The bill was backed by Republican state Sen. Chase Blasi of Wichita, who stressed the bill does not mandate local school districts to provide gun-safety training.

In the past, critics had said using the NRA class as a basis for the curriculum guidelines was tantamount to promoting the organization, calling the program “Joe Camel with feathers.”

Blasi tried to head off that criticism on the Senate floor, explaining it was a model of gun-accident prevention that schools could use to promote gun safety.

“A child going through the program is taught to stop, don’t touch, run away, tell a grownup,” Blasi said.

“I think we can all agree if our young child or grandchild comes across a firearm, they follow that curriculum,” he said.

“This program does not teach children about guns or use guns in its curriculum,” he said.

Democratic state Sen. Cindy Holscher tried to amend the bill so that it would bar anyone from possessing a gun in teaching the course. It was defeated 25-12.

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes also unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill so that parents of students offered the chance to participate in the gun-safety course would be given four months advance notice. It was defeated 27-8.

“If we choose not to give parents a voice in this, we are dictating our beliefs on them instead of letting them make that decision for what is best for them,” she said.

Senate President Ty Masterson said Sykes’ amendment pointed to the need for a “parental bill of rights” for schools.

“What this does is discriminate against a particular curriculum,” Masterson said in response to Sykes’ proposed amendment.

“Obviously, this is brought because some segment of the population thinks there could be some controversy with this curriculum,” he said.

Holscher suggested that the real intent behind the Eddie Eagle program was to create a new market for firearms and gun politics.

She cited testimony for the bill that said the gun-safety course would provide the opportunity to recruit “the next generation of sportsmen and women.”

“During committee, we were assured that Eddie Eagle was all about safety and that NRA doesn’t appear anywhere on the materials,” Holscher said.

“However, it was revealed in committee that NRA does appear on pages of materials and there’s even a bigger problem online,” she said.

Holscher tried to amend the bill so that any program based on Eddie Eagle would not contain any references to the National Rifle Association or NRA as well as the organization’s registered logo. The amendment was defeated.

“We need to provide gun-safety information, but we need to take politics out of it” Holscher said. “This is a direct conduit to political activity.”

Under the bill, the curriculum would be based on the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program offered by the National Rifle Association for students enrolled in kindergarten and grades one through five.

For grades six through eight, the curriculum would be based on the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program or the Hunter Education in Our Schools Program offered by the Department of Wildlife and Parks.

For grades nine through 12, the curriculum would be based on the Hunter Education in Our Schools Program.

If a local board of education elects to provide firearm safety education, the instruction would be required to be in line with the guidelines established by the State Board of Education.

The local board of education would be required to ensure that all students are provided the opportunity to take the course.

The bill doesn’t require local school districts to offer the program. It is only an option for them to offer.

The bill does not require the Board of Education to use the NRA program, which is supposed to be the basis for developing the curriculum guidelines.

Two years ago, the governor vetoed similar legislation because it violated the Kansas State Board of Education’s constitutional authority to generally supervise the school system.

“The Kansas Constitution endows our state Board of Education with the authority to set the curriculum for our public schools,” Kelly said in a statement at the time.

“We should let the state Board of Education do that job, not the Legislature.”