Calling For Eddie Eagle

In a most tragic incident in the Los Angeles area, a 15-year old girl was shot in the head by an accidental gun discharge on Tuesday. She remains in critical condition and will be marred for life. The same bullet also wounded another student in the neck. It appears that the gun had been brought to school by a classmate, and gone off inside the student’s backpack.

Whenever we have a horrible event like this, it is fashionable to blame the schools, the “easy access to guns”, and to bash gun owner advocates — especially the National Rifle Association (NRA) — for allowing this to happen.

But what I hardly see mentioned is that the NRA is running a superb program warning kids of the dangers of guns.

Since respect for firearms must be taught as early as possible, Eddie Eagle addresses children under 10.

No government agency, no school district and no gun-control advocacy organization offers anything like this.

Since 1988, the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program has been taught by more than 26,000 schoolteachers, volunteers and law enforcement officers nationwide. So far, Eddie Eagle has reached over 21 million children — in all 50 states.

Has it helped? You bet! Since the program’s inception, firearms accidents in the target group have fallen by 80% and are now at the lowest level in history.

The program was developed through the combined efforts of clinical psychologists, reading specialists, teachers, curriculum specialists, urban housing safety officials, law enforcement personnel and firearm experts.

Eddie Eagle comes with a video, a brochure, a student workbook and even reward stickers (in English and in Spanish). It is being offered to schools, libraries, hospitals, youth organization — anyone who asks. There is a nominal fee, but an NRA volunteer organization is able to provide grants to communities in need.

Eddie Eagle’s agenda is the prevention of firearm accidents. Nothing else. The entire program is free from propaganda and political messages of any kind. Eddie Eagle never makes a pitch for NRA membership. He does not endorse any organization, product, policy or opinion. The NRA is not even mentioned in any of the materials.

So what does Eddie Eagle say kids should do when they see a gun? Simple:

Don’t Touch.
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.

Eddie Eagle has earned universal praise and endorsements, such as from the National Sheriff’s Association, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Association of American Educators, the American Legion as well as dozens of state governors.

For the sake of child safety, we should leave politics and controversial viewpoints aside and give credit where credit is due — even to the “gun lobby” (which, incidentally, has also been imploring parents to be responsible, and has supported laws to that effect).

Metal detectors and routine searches, as they are common in schools these days, are hardly a deterrent. (One wonders what happened in society to make such drastic measures necessary in the first place, but that’s another debate).

What I am certain of is that if today’s kids are as inventive as I was back then, metal detectors and routine searches would not be much of a deterrent. In fact, my classmates and I would have made it a sport to defeat these measures. Just for the fun of it.

The common-sense facts are:

(1) Firearms are to be found in half of all American households;

(2) Demonizing something arouses even more of a child’s natural curiosity. This is especially true when the “taboo” is at same time glorified and depicted all over popular entertainment.

The life-saving answer is to be found in rational education and in parental responsibility. I’m calling for Eddie Eagle to visit all kindergartens and elementary schools in America.
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Journalist and media professional currently based in Los Angeles, California. Focusing on science and technology.