School Climate & Safety

NRA’s Gun-Safety Course Finds Favor in Schools

By Jessica L. Sandham — April 19, 2000 3 min read

Even as some educators are going up against the National Rifle Association in the hallways of statehouses and the U.S. Capitol over gun control, others are bringing the organization’s gun-avoidance program into their classrooms in a different kind of effort to safeguard children against firearms.

The NRA’s Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program is not the only program of its kind available to teachers, but it is the largest, having reached by its own estimates 12 million children since 1988. Geared to elementary students, Eddie Eagle’s lessons revolve around a central lesson on what children should do if they see a gun: “Stop! Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.”

“Just as Smokey the Bear teaches children not to play with matches,” the NRA says on its World Wide Web site, “Eddie Eagle teaches them that firearms are not toys, and should not be touched without adult supervision.”

But some observers say that unlike Smokey, Eddie Eagle has garnered a good deal of attention from state lawmakers throughout the country and, in so doing, dominated the debate over how and whether gun-violence prevention should be taught in schools.

A recent report by the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan, or HELP, Network in Chicago identified nine programs that discourage children and young adults from carrying guns. Still, said Emile LeBrun, a spokesman for the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, “most of the discussions about what should be implemented usually begin with the Eddie Eagle program.”

At least a dozen legislatures have passed resolutions endorsing Eddie Eagle’s message and encouraging the program’s use in schools since 1994. Just last week in Ohio, for example, Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, urged lawmakers to pass a bill requiring safe storage of firearms that includes a $100,000 allocation for a pilot program to support implementing Eddie Eagle or courses similar to it.

“We wanted to make sure this was not a gun-training program, but a firearm-safety program for young children,” said Rep. Ann H. Womer Benjamin, the Republican who sponsored the Ohio bill. “The Eddie Eagle program is a well-regarded safety program.”

Not Everyone Agrees

But last year, Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon, a Democrat, and Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, a Republican, both vetoed legislation that would have implemented the NRA program in elementary schools in their respective states. They said the decision should be left to schools and not be mandated by the state.

Alicia Horton, the director of the education division for Handgun Control Inc., the nation’s leading gun-control-advocacy group, said Eddie Eagle offers a lot of flash and too little substance. “The Eddie Eagle program primarily consists of puzzles and games and is targeted for a very young audience,” Ms. Horton said. “It is not very substantive in terms of having materials that are well-steeped in education theory.”

Handgun Control’s own gun-safety program, the Straight Talk About Risks, or STAR, program, began in 1992 and has reached some 2 million young people in 99 school districts, according to the organization’s estimates. The program has different curriculum materials available for different grades, and its lessons focus on anger management, conflict resolution, and self-esteem building.

“We come from the perspective that all children are at risk for gun violence, and we want to make sure they have the necessary skill set to remove themselves from violent situations,” Ms. Horton said.

Regardless of the approach to gun-safety instruction, however, the HELP Network noted in its report that little research had been done on Eddie Eagle or any other gun-safety programs to determine their effectiveness in preventing gun violence, both accidental and intentional.

Some experts say that without such information, schools run the risk of spending time and money on ineffective, or even destructive, programs.

“The bottom line is that there’s precious little in the way of evaluations of these programs,” said Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, the medical director for the HELP Network. “What has been done suggests that there might be paradoxical effects in older children, where talking about guns stirs up anxieties. We just need to be sure that we’re doing what we set out to do.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 19, 2000 edition of Education Week as NRA’s Gun-Safety Course Finds Favor in Schools

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Opinion Teaching's 'New Normal'? There's Nothing Normal About the Constant Threat of Death
As the bizarre becomes ordinary, don't forget what's at stake for America's teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Justin Minkel.
4 min read
14Minkel IMG
Gremlin/E+
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor Invisibility to Inclusivity for LGBTQ Students
To the Editor:
I read with interest “The Essential Traits of a Positive School Climate” (Special Report: “Getting School Climate Right: A Guide for Principals,” Oct. 14, 2020). The EdWeek Research Center survey of principals and teachers provides interesting insight as to why there are still school climate issues for LGBTQ students.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety As Election 2020 Grinds On, Young Voters Stay Hooked
In states like Georgia, the push to empower the youth vote comes to fruition at a time when “every vote counts” is more than just a slogan.
6 min read
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Brynn Anderson/AP
School Climate & Safety Opinion The Pandemic Is Raging. Here's How to Support Your Grieving Students
What do students who have experienced a loss need in the classroom? Brittany R. Collins digs into the science.
Brittany R. Collins
5 min read
13Collins IMG
Benjavisa Ruangvaree/iStock