Virginia to Teach Gun Safety in Elementary Schools

Schoolchildren in Virginia who aren't old enough to pack their lunches yet will soon start learning about packing heat.

Move over, Crime Dog McGruff. There's a new mascot on the playground and he's got the backing of the powerful National Rifle Association.

The NRA's Eddie Eagle will soon be offering his brand of gun-safety lessons to the state's schoolchildren.

A new law will require Virginia's education department to come up with a gun-safety curriculum for public elementary schools that incorporates guidelines from the NRA.

The law allows local school divisions to offer gun-safety education to pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade. While each school board can decide whether to offer it, those that do must use the state curriculum -- which will include rules used by the NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.

Some parents are up in arms over the new law.

"I personally don't think firearm safety has a place in the schools," Lori Haas, spokeswoman for the Virginia Center for Public Safety, told "That's up to the parents to teach that at home."

Haas, whose daughter is a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, said her group is outraged that state lawmakers are placing "a burden" on the state school board that it didn't ask for.

"For the general assembly and governor to dictate to the board of education in writing curriculum is not their area," she said, calling the law a "freebie to a special interest group."

Legislation passed in March by the General Assembly had included an amendment that allowed the curriculum to include materials from the National Crime Prevention Center. But Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed removing the amendment because there is no such group, and the legislature on Wednesday approved his change.

The legislation meant to refer to the National Crime Prevention Council, home of McGruff the Crime Dog. But McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson said that rather than fixing the name, the governor deleted it because the council doesn't have a current stand-alone gun-safety program.

NRA's Eddie Eagle website says that the program's goal "isn't to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children."

The Eddie Eagle mascot advises children: "If you see a gun: STOP! Don't Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult."

Eddie Eagle does not promote firearm ownership or use and firearms are never used in the program, the website says.

"Like swimming pools, electrical outlets, matchbooks and household poison, they're treated simply as a fact of everyday life," the website says. "With firearms found in about half of all American households, it's a stance that makes sense."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.