A media release recently announced that the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. As reported, “In the program’s three decades of outreach, more than 30 million children across the United States have learned NRA’s simple, effective firearm accident prevention principles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional firearm fatalities among children of the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program’s targeted age group have declined almost 80 percent since the program’s debut.”
I think that’s all very good news and should definitely be recognized. Hey — who wants to argue with reaching pre-K through 4th graders all over the nation about gun safety? As the release stated, “The Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program has been utilized by more than 28,000 schools, law enforcement agencies and civic groups. The governors of 26 states have signed resolutions recommending that the program be used in their school systems and the legislatures of 25 states passed resolutions recommending the use of the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.”
All that good stuff said, however, I would like to offer a small challenge to the Eddie Eagle program. As most people know, “The program was founded with one mission: to teach children four simple, easy to remember steps so they know what to do if they ever come across a gun — ‘STOP! Don’t Touch. Run Away. Tell a Grown-up.’” And while the NRA’s safety program for kids has certainly experienced some updates and some upgrades over the years (most recently in 2015), I am just unsure if I agree completely with the messaging. To me, these words of advice (which many children and adults, alike, have stuck in their heads as a fun, catchy tune) may be slightly off-track. For instance, what message, exactly, are we sending our kids when we’re basically singing, “Run away whenever you see a gun?”
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to responsible gun ownership, I don’t want to instill fear in my children; I want to instill respect. And I don’t want my kids to fall for the misleading messaging the mainstream media wants to push: that guns are bad, scary or dangerous. In that way, as well, I don’t want my kids to feel that they have to leave the area or run away whenever a gun is around. I would much rather them learn about firearms and firearms safety while I (or another responsible adult) is there to teach them!
I completely understand that Eddie and his Wing Team are trying to teach kids simple, memorable steps, and running away (or “leaving the area,” as the saying used to advise) is a good way to find an adult and get some help. (The Eddie Eagle website even further explains step three, stating “This removes the temptation to touch the firearm as well as the danger that another person may negligently cause it to fire.”) But for me, whether cleaning a gun, packing a range bag or shooting at targets, I want my kids to be cautious and alert, but I also want them to soak up all the information and experiences they need to truly be safe. Perhaps, then, the Eddie Eagle GunSafe messaging would be more effective and more positive (and perhaps a bit more supportive of the 2nd Amendment) if it stated: “STOP! Don’t Touch. Tell a Grown-up. Get Some Help!”