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Who is Eddie Eagle?

More Missouri first-grade students may be introduced to him as a result of Gov. Jay Nixon's signature on legislation approved by state lawmakers.

The new law allows, but does not require, elementary schools to teach the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Eddie Eagle is the mascot for the program.

The acronym, NRA, automatically tends to trigger debate on Second Amendment and gun-control issues.

Opponents of the legislation may criticize it as an attempt by the NRA to infiltrate the schools and fill the minds of young people with pro-firearm propaganda.

Perhaps anticipating this criticism, the NRA - on its website - emphasizes the program targets safety, not weapons.

The program's mantra is: "If you see a gun: Stop! Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult."

The website description reads: "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."

It continues: "Eddie Eagle is never shown touching a firearm, and he does not promote firearm ownership or use. The program prohibits the use of Eddie Eagle mascots anywhere that guns are present. The Eddie Eagle Program has no agenda other than accident prevention - ensuring that children stay safe should they encounter a gun. The program never mentions the NRA. Nor does it encourage children to buy guns or to become NRA members."

NRA detractors are not likely to be reassured.

Like the Shakespearean character who observed, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much,'' critics will argue the NRA's emphatic denial of a hidden agenda is evidence it has such an agenda.

No matter.

NRA critics are not likely to be swayed by NRA pronouncements.

School districts retain local control. They may or may not offer the instruction.

And if first-graders are indoctrinated to avoid firearms and tell an adult, lives may be saved.

Reasonable people will continue to debate issues regarding the right to bear arms, gun violence and gun control.

In the meantime, if local schools are willing, let Eddie Eagle deliver to children his message of gun safety.