The Republican governor of Virginia has quietly changed a state law last month that would teach gun safety to elementary school students, mandating that it use a gun safety program run by the NRA.
The National Rifle Association exerts considerable influence in American politics, and has recently won a series of victories in the US Congress. Democratic leaders have been reluctant to challenge the powerful lobbying group, in part because they rely on a more conservative bloc of Democrats for their control of the legislative branch.
Now, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has delivered the NRA another coup: a monopoly on teaching gun safety to schoolchildren from kindergarten to fifth grade.
With the stroke of a pen -- or a keyboard -- the governor eliminated a provision in a new law allowing gun safety classes which would have given educators the power to choose between an NRA-sponsored program and one offered by the group that promotes McGruff the Crime Dog.
Earlier this year, the Virginia legislature passed a bill allowing public schools to Ã¢â‚¬Å“offer gun-safety education to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.Ã¢â‚¬Â Included in the legislation was a provision directing these gun safety programs to use materials from the National Crime Prevention Center as well as the NRA:
The curriculum guidelines shall incorporate, among other principles of firearm safety, accident prevention and the rules upon which the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program offered by the National Rifle Association or the program of the National Crime Prevention Center is based.
There is no National Crime Prevention Center. However, there is a National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) Ã¢â‚¬â€ the group behind McGruff the Crime Dog. But when McDonnell signed the legislation, he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t insert the NCPCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s name. Instead he offered this change:
Strike or the program of the National Crime Prevention Center.
A spokesman for the governor, when announcing that he was striking the provision allowing the NRA to operate the state's sole elementary school gun safety class, said that he'd deleted reference to the other group because "the council doesn't have a current stand-alone gun-safety program." The spokesman also referenced the fact that the name of the non-NRA group was incorrect in the bill.
The liberal anti-gun Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence protested McDonnell's move in a little-noticed blog posting earlier this month, ThinkProgress notes.
A "study published in the late 1990s by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) noted that Eddie Eagle was like 'Joe Camel with feathers,' pointing out that: 'The primary goal of the National Rifle AssociationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Eddie Eagle program is not to safeguard children, but to protect the interests of the NRA and the firearms industry by making guns more acceptable to children and youth... The hoped-for result is new customers for the industry and new members for the NRA.'"
The mother of a Virginia woman who survived the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre told Fox News in April that the move was a "freebie" to a "special interest group."
"I personally don't think firearm safety has a place in the schools," Lori Haas, who is also a spokeswoman for Virginia's Center for Public Safety, told the network. "That's up to the parents to teach that at home."
"For the general assembly and governor to dictate to the board of education in writing curriculum is not their area," she added. It's a "freebie to a special interest group."
The website for the NRA child gun safety program says their goal "isn't to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children."
A prior version of this article misspelled Governor McDonell's last name.