A liberal state senator from Shoreline is pushing schools and preschools to teach kids about gun safety using a curriculum developed by the National Rifle Association.
Sen. Maralyn Chase, a Democrat, said she is very fond of the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, which she said has used to teach her own grandson about gun safety. The program includes the mantra, “Stop! Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.”
“If a child finds a gun, they think, oh, it’s a toy, and they can pick it up,” Chase said Thursday. “We need to include gun safety in all the other safety things we teach our children. If you get on fire, drop and roll. Don’t take candy from a stranger, don’t get in cars from strangers, don’t pick up a gun.”
Chase, who received a D ranking from the NRA for her stance on gun control issues in 2010, is sponsoring two bills that would promote use of the Eddie Eagle program in Washington schools. Senate Bill 5660 would require the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to create a gun safety program using Eddie Eagle teachings, which schools could then adopt during the 2014-15 school year.
Meanwhile, Senate Joint Resolution 8006 asks the Legislature to urge all schools, preschools, daycare programs and licensed child care providers to use the Eddie Eagle program to teach firearms safety.
While Chase’s views don’t always jibe with those of the NRA, she said the organization’s Eddie Eagle program has nothing to do with gun rights, only common-sense gun safety.
Instructional materials associated with the Eddie Eagle program feature photos of a person in an eagle costume talking to children, as well as illustration of children of different races smiling next to a cartoon version of the Eddie Eagle mascot.
“It’s not to teach them how to operate a gun,” Chase said. “That’s farthest from my mind.”
Both of Chase’s bills received a hearing Thursday in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.
While no one besides Chase testified for or against the proposals, Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, noted that the Eddie Eagle program seems geared more toward younger students and may not be appropriate for all grade levels.
“I’m a little concerned about how 10th graders will respond to this,” Dammeier said.
OSPI spokesman Nathan Olson said that his office has yet to take a stance on Chase’s proposal for the agency to develop an NRA-inspired gun safety curriculum. A fiscal note attached to Senate Bill 5660 estimates that developing the curriculum would create a one-time cost of $50,000 for OSPI.
The gun safety lessons could also take up what is becoming a valuable commodity in Washington schools: classroom time.
A spokesman for Tacoma Public Schools said Thursday that schools are busy enough just trying to help students succeed academically.
“Our plate is full developing new, effective ways to teach students to meet the core academic standards already established by the state, and getting more students to graduate college- and career-ready,” Tacoma schools spokesman Dan Voelpel wrote in an email Thursday. “While ensuring our students, staff and community are safe is a top priority for our district, we wouldn’t advise adding a non-academic requirement of any kind to distract us from our mission.”
A lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Washington state did not return calls for comment Thursday.
Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209 firstname.lastname@example.org