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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -
In first grade, kids start to learn about reading, writing and arithmetic, and in Missouri you may soon be able to add guns to that list.
Gun safety is a topic some people think should be taught to children and now Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has signed a bill into law that would allow teachers to instruct first-graders on gun safety using literature from the National Rifle Association featuring Eddie Eagle, a gun safety mascot.
"There are too many kids who grab the guns and kill their cousins. I agree, I think they should know gun safety. It would be helpful," Cathy Peters said.
But not everyone believes the program should be a part of a school curriculum for children as young as 5. Jan Relf is a teacher and said the lesson does not belong in a classroom.
"We have too many things to teach our first-graders, second-graders and on up to be spending time teaching about gun safety. That's something that parents need to deal with," Relf said.
KCTV5 reached out to the NRA for an explanation and no one returned the calls. But a statement posted on the organization's website said, "The purpose of the Eddie Eagle Program isn't to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children. The program makes no value judgments about firearms, and no firearms are ever used in the program."
The statement goes on to explain, "Eddie Eagle is never shown touching a firearm, and he does not promote firearm ownership or use. The Eddie Eagle Program has no agenda other than accident prevention - ensuring that children stay safe should they encounter a gun."
One person said kids should know about gun safety, but she doesn't think that lesson should come in class.
"I don't think that has a place in the schools. That's for parents to deal with," Kathy Anderson said.
The bill signed Friday allows schools to teach the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program and to seek financial grants to do so. But it stops short of mandating the course.
The NRA says its course has been taught to more than 26 million children nationwide since it began in 1988. Virginia enacted a law in 2010 allowing gun safety courses based on the NRA program.
The Missouri legislation requires schools to conduct an active-shooter drill led by law enforcement officers.
It also assigns the duty of issuing identification cards for concealed gun permits to sheriffs, instead of driver's license clerks.
Nixon said it's up to school districts to decide if they will start teaching gun safety. Kansas City Public Schools, Independence and Blue Springs school districts got back to KCTV5 and said they won't be doing the program.
Many viewers went on the KCTV5 Facebook page to let us know what they think about the idea. Amber said her kids went through the Eddie Eagle program 15-years ago and they can still recite it. She goes on to point out the education might come in handy in case your kids are at a friends' house where there is a gun.
Kim disagrees, saying first grade is too young. She wrote quote, "Let them get old enough to realize first what a gun is and what it can do."
Click here for more on the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.