Eddie Eagle Flying High

Graphic: National Rifle Association

My kids are far from youngsters any more, but they still can repeat the slogan they were taught by Eddie Eagle many decades. The message: “Stop, don’t touch, leave the area and tell an adult.” These days the slogan’s “leave the area” mantra has morphed to a more simple, “run away,” and “adult” is now called a “grown-up” but the message about what a youngster should do if they encounter a firearm is the same.

How many slogans, other than jingles with which they were bombarded about sugary breakfast foods (Cuckoo for Coco Puffs) can they recall? Not many – and my kids weren’t continually subjected to the Eddie Eagle message. I showed it to them once at home on a VHS tape and they saw it one more time when I lent the tape to a teacher at their grade school. That’s a powerful message – for my children and for millions more across the country.

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, NRA’s groundbreaking gun accident prevention course for children, recently achieved another milestone by reaching its 30 millionth child. That’s a significant number considering the liberal bent of many elementary school teachers who would rather their students miss the message than subject them to a gun safety program created by an organization so politically incorrect as the National Rifle Association.

Created in 1988 by past NRA President Marion P. Hammer, in consultation with elementary school teachers, law enforcement officers and child psychologists, the program provides pre-K through fourth grade children with simple, effective rules to follow should they encounter a firearm in an unsupervised setting: “If you see a gun: STOP! Don’t Touch. Run Away. Tell a Grown-Up.”

Volunteers for the Eddie Eagle program come from diverse backgrounds, but they share a commitment to keeping children safe. Those involved include NRA members, teachers, law enforcement officers and community activists who teach the program, as well as private donors and Friends of NRA volunteers who raise funds to provide the program’s educational materials.

More than 26,000 educators, law enforcement agencies, and civic organizations have taught the program since 1988. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, incidental firearm-related deaths among children in Eddie Eagle’s targeted age group have declined more than 80 percent since the program’s launch.

The Eddie Eagle program has been praised by numerous groups and elected officials, including the Association of American Educators, the Youth Activities Division of the National Safety Council, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the U.S. Department of Justice (through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency), and 26 state governors.

All my kids saw was the short video featuring Eddie Eagle as a dancing cartoon character, explaining the simple message, along with comments from their teacher. Increasingly, a volunteer shows up in an Eddie Eagle costume to present the message to the youngsters.

Law enforcement partnerships with Eddie Eagle have proven to be very effective. In fact, almost 400 Eddie Eagle mascot costumes are in use by law enforcement officers across the country. NRA also offers free Eddie Eagle materials to any law enforcement agency, educational facility, hospital, or library across the nation.

Funds raised through Friends of NRA and distributed through The NRA Foundation enable schools and police departments to teach the program at little or no cost. The NRA encourages citizens nationwide to participate in heightening gun accident prevention awareness within their local communities.

Schools, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, and others interested in more information about The Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, or persons who wish to see if free materials are available in their communities, should email the NRA Community Outreach Department at eddie@nrahq.org or visit www.eddieeagle.com.

Established in 1871, the National Rifle Association is America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen’s group. Five million members strong, NRA continues its mission to uphold Second Amendment rights and is the leader in firearm education and training for law-abiding gun owners, law enforcement and the military.

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Mike Schoonveld

Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest.

Mike can be reached through his website www.brother-nature.com or visit Mike’s Outdoor World Blog at www.bronature.com

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