By Lee Williams
More than 33 million children have learned about gun safety through the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program. The exact figures, current as of last month, show that 33,198,060 kids have participated since the program was started in 1988, and 41,325 children have been reached so far this year.
Even the NRA’s staunchest critics have acknowledged that the Eddie Eagle program is something special. It works because its message is simple and easy for kids to remember when they encounter a firearm: “STOP! DON’T TOUCH. RUN AWAY. TELL A GROWN-UP.”
Of course, like everything the nation’s oldest civil rights organization does, the Eddie Eagle program is not immune from criticism. The latest salvo came from the Daily Beast, titled: “The NRA’s Gun Safety Program for Kids has Imploded.” Its author certainly didn’t let the facts get in the way of his anti-gun narrative.
The Beast story claims Eddie Eagle has “essentially fallen apart.” The author bases this claim on documents he said he received from Everytown for Gun Safety, which is one of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s astro-turf (not grassroots) anti-gun groups.
The author claims “a mere 32,000 children were reached by the Eddie Eagle program in 2020, a drop of nearly 95 percent compared to 2019.”
While that’s certainly a steep decline, I seem to recall there was something of significance that occurred during 2020 that may have caused the drop – like, the entire country was shut down because of COVID-19.
The Beast, of course, sees it differently. “The documents show the steep slide wasn’t due to last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns, either: In 2019, Eddie Eagle reached 35 percent fewer children than in 2018. In all, participation dropped 96 percent in 24 months, as the NRA cut funding on “safety, training & education” by $14 million, or more than a third.”
NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide told the Beast the Eddie Eagle program is “thriving.” He also pointed out that despite all their blather, Bloomberg’s groups spend zero dollars educating kids about gun safety.
Shannon Watts, who runs Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action, called Eddie Eagle “a thinly veiled ad campaign intended to create future firearms buyers.”
“For a really long time, the NRA has pretended that Eddie Eagle is a responsible way to teach kids about gun safety,” Watts told the Beast. “But it’s actually more like a marketing or a propaganda tool, similar to Joe Camel in marketing cigarettes to kids. And thankfully, Eddie Eagle is going by the wayside, much like Joe Camel did.”
This is pure gibberish. The Eddie Eagle program is about as far from a marketing campaign as you can get. It makes no value judgements about firearms, and does not endorse any of the shooting sports. In fact, in none of the cartoons, books, pamphlets or videos does Eddie ever touch a gun. It is Watts, herself, who is a “marketing or a propaganda tool.”
About the only thing the Beast story got right was a comment about former NRA president and current board member, Marion Hammer, who created the Eddie Eagle program in 1988. It was Hammer who assembled the multi-disciplinary task force that designed and implemented the curriculum.
“Contacted on her personal cell phone by The Daily Beast, Hammer hung up,” the story states.
I know Marion. She doesn’t suffer fools. She definitely hung up.
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.