The NRA’s ‘Eddie Eagle’ Gun Safety Program for Kids Has Imploded

When he was 4 years outdated, Eli Parker shot himself within the face.

It was April 2002, and Eli was visiting his grandparents in Louisville, Kentucky, together with his father and 1-year-old brother after his dad and mom had not too long ago separated. Whereas the youthful boy was having his diaper modified, Eli went to search for some kids’s books his grandmother set out for him on the headboard of her mattress. Sitting on prime of the stack of books, was a handgun.

“He knew his dad was preoccupied together with his little brother, and he picked it up as a result of he simply wished to look [and] see if he might see what he known as a ‘missile,’ which was a bullet,” Haley Parker Rinehart, Eli’s mother, advised The Every day Beast. “However…his finger hit the set off and the gun discharged. The bullet entered the nook of his proper eye, [and] exited behind his proper ear. And that’s the place our story started.”

Eli was rushed to a neighborhood hospital, the place he underwent emergency surgical procedure. Medical doctors eliminated his proper eye, taking out his proper temporal bone and a portion of his mind’s proper temporal lobe within the course of. That evening, Eli’s mind swelled to harmful ranges. A neurosurgeon woke Rinehart and advised her she had no possibility—she needed to signal a type giving medical doctors permission to function instantly, or Eli, who was simply barely hanging on, would die.

Rinehart stated she “had a psychological breakdown proper there within the hospital. I screamed, I ran down the corridor. They chased after me, and this physician obtained proper up in my face, and caught his finger in my face. And he advised me he was giving me 5 minutes to decide on, and that it might be my determination whether or not or not my son doubtlessly lived… Clearly, I made a decision to allow them to function.”

Some 20 medical doctors and nurses labored for hours to save lots of Eli’s life. They had been unable to take away a number of bone fragments from his splintered cranium and eye socket with out inflicting additional neurological harm past what Eli—if he made it—would already need to cope with.

“Even once we had been discharged from the hospital a month later, they nonetheless didn’t know what the long-term results could be,” stated Rinehart, who was subsequently recognized with PTSD, together with each of her sons. “As a result of most youngsters with an harm like that, at his age, that they’ve seen up to now, had not survived it.”

Medical doctors eliminated components of Eli’s cranium and mind with a view to save his life.

Courtesy Haley Parker Rinehart

Every year in the USA, roughly 350 kids underneath the age of 17 get entry to a firearm and shoot themselves or another person. About 700 kids every year within the U.S. die by suicide utilizing a gun. Throughout the first 5 months of 2021, a median of 54 folks died every day in shootings, a rise from a median of 40 shootings deaths per day over the previous six years. In line with a Washington Post data analysis published in June, unintended shootings rose by greater than 40 % between 2019 and 2020, with unintended shootings by kids up 45 %. American children underneath the age of 15 are nine times more likely to die in an inadvertent shooting than children elsewhere within the developed world.

For greater than three many years, faculties throughout the USA—together with the one Rinehart attended as a toddler in addition to the one Eli later attended—have used the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation’s “Eddie Eagle” program to show younger children about gun security. Launched in 1988, the initiative is aimed toward pre-Okay via fourth graders and features an animated eagle and his anthropomorphic “wing staff,” that instruct kids who encounter a gun to: “STOP! Don’t contact. Run away. Inform a grown-up.”

In line with the NRA, this system, which along with faculties will be administered by regulation enforcement companies and civic teams, has been “honored or endorsed” by the Nationwide Sheriffs’ Affiliation, the U.S. Division of Justice (via the Workplace of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention), and the Affiliation of American Educators. Eddie Eagle has additionally “obtained bipartisan assist from 26 state governors, in addition to resolutions from 23 state legislatures,” the NRA states in its program supplies, which additional observe that “26,000 college academics and regulation enforcement officers have taught the Program to over 32 million kids.”

Even staunch gun security advocates like Mark Kelly, Navy fight vet and husband to gun violence survivor and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, have spoken favorably of Eddie Eagle. This, claims the NRA, “verifies the recognition of the Program with those that cope with baby issues of safety each day.”

However the Eddie Eagle program—which was deemed largely ineffective in real-world situations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, amongst others—has in recent times failed to realize anyplace close to that kind of attain.

The NRA has of late discovered itself embroiled in authorized and monetary bother. In 2019, a prime NRA donor filed a class action lawsuit in 2019, alleging CEO Wayne LaPierre and different prime NRA leaders wrongfully enriched themselves by residing giant whereas ignoring the group’s mission. A 2020 lawsuit introduced by New York State Legal professional Common Letitia James accused LaPierre of utilizing the NRA as a “private piggy financial institution,” alleging that LaPierre and three NRA executives dug the organization into a $64 million hole over the course of three years “with out regard to the NRA’s greatest pursuits.” The NRA filed for chapter in January, however a Texas choose dismissed the hassle as little greater than an try to keep away from New York state’s effort to carry the group accountable. In a deposition during the NRA’s failed bankruptcy proceedings, LaPierre was compelled to confess having borrowed a good friend’s 108-foot yacht to cover out from an indignant public after at the very least two mass shootings.

Along with the NRA’s very survival being at stake, the Eddie Eagle initiative has primarily fallen aside, in accordance with inside NRA paperwork newly made public throughout the organization’s recent bankruptcy bid and shared with The Every day Beast by Everytown For Gun Security, the nonprofit based in 2013 by former New York Metropolis Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Everytown and the nonprofit Mothers Demand Motion for Gun Security have their very own program, known as Be SMART, which is aimed toward educating households with school-age kids about accountable gun possession.)

In minutes from a number of latest board conferences, NRA staffers advised board members that Eddie had reached a median of greater than one million kids per yr since its inception. And whereas that is technically true (32,371,095 averaged over 32 years between 1988 and 2020 yields 1,011,597), a mere 32,000 children were reached by the Eddie Eagle program in 2020, a drop of almost 95 % compared to 2019.

The paperwork present the steep slide wasn’t as a consequence of final yr’s COVID-19 lockdowns, both: In 2019, Eddie Eagle reached 35 % fewer kids than in 2018. In all, participation dropped 96 % in 24 months, because the NRA lower funding on “security, coaching & schooling” by $14 million, or greater than a 3rd.

“Opposite to what gun management sources could also be feeding you, NRA’s Eddie Eagle program just isn’t solely doing properly ​however thriving,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide advised The Every day Beast. “There was a problem with our file maintaining upkeep throughout that point interval however that difficulty has since been corrected.”

Of the NRA’s shrinking expenditures on coaching and schooling, Dalseide stated, “The irony is these so-called gun security advocates don’t have any plan and spend zero {dollars} with regards to educating both kids and adults on gun security.”

Dalseide stated the information concerning Eddie Eagle’s attain was not up to date retroactively, and thus couldn’t present new figures.

Though a far-right evangelical minister in suburban Chicago was the first to use Eddie Eagle in a classroom setting, the idea was hatched in Florida. Within the late Eighties, South Florida noticed an unexplained spike in baby shootings. In 1987, 36 kids had been shot by different kids in Dade County, the place Miami is situated. In 1988, that quantity rose to 57. Dade instituted a gun safety program in public schools developed by the Heart to Forestall Handgun Violence, distributing posters with the (admittedly doubtful) slogan, “Simply Say No to Weapons.”

This system was meant to reframe the dialogue on weapons, telling dad and mom that having a gun within the house is harmful for youths, no matter how conscientious the proprietor could also be.

“Merely put, we’re conveying the message that weapons are unhealthy—they kill,” James Fleming, Dade’s then-associate superintendent for communications and administration companies, said at the time.

The NRA supplied to supply Florida’s faculties with supplies from its newly created Eddie Eagle program, however the state’s Board of Training turned the group down. The Eddie Eagle syllabus, in accordance with Fleming, reframed the talk to show children that it was “completely regular to have a gun in the home.” Tracey Martin, the NRA’s then-national supervisor of schooling and coaching, claimed she was informed by state officials that Eddie Eagle was rejected “as a result of we weren’t saying that weapons had been unhealthy or evil.”

“The exhausting and quick rule is that weapons must be inaccessible to untrained and unauthorized folks,” Martin told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “However how folks do it’s as much as them.” The controversy performed out towards a political backdrop by which the Florida state meeting was contemplating a brand new regulation that will permit legal expenses to be introduced towards authorized gun homeowners in the event that they saved their weapons in such a means {that a} minor could be “prone to acquire entry” to them. (A 2018 study by the Rand Corporation discovered that so-called baby entry prevention legal guidelines do scale back unintentional taking pictures accidents and deaths amongst kids, though the identical couldn’t be stated for adults).

Marion Hammer, government director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, an NRA-funded pro-gun group, was maybe the laws’s most vocal opponent. The answer to baby shootings didn’t lie in making weapons tougher for youths to entry, however in instructional packages like Eddie Eagle, the NRA and its surrogates insisted. And though her effort to derail the regulation was unsuccessful, Hammer—who would later function president of the NRA and has recently come under scrutiny for financial irregularities—managed to persuade Dade County to make use of the Eddie Eagle program at school districts alongside the one by the Heart to Forestall Handgun Violence.

Nobody answered the cellphone at Unified Sportsmen of Florida’s listed quantity. Contacted on her private cellular phone by The Every day Beast, Hammer hung up.

Within the years since, the NRA has used the Eddie Eagle program to argue against related gun security payments and set off lock legal guidelines in other states, calling each an “intrusive proposal [that] invades folks’s houses and forces them to render their firearms ineffective in a self-defense state of affairs by locking them up.” In Indiana, the NRA helped deep-six a toddler entry prevention regulation, efficiently lobbying for necessary Eddie Eagle lessons for schoolchildren, as a substitute. The NRA’s affect will be witnessed front-and-center: A 2013 Missouri invoice encouraging faculties to undertake the Eddie Eagle program explicitly states, “Faculty personnel and program instructors should not make worth judgments about firearms.”

Response to Eddie Eagle by dad and mom and legislators on each side of the aisle has been blended.

In April, the GOP-controlled Kansas Senate handed a package of legislation that, amongst different issues, lowered the minimal age for carrying a hid firearm from 21 to 18, and mandated the Eddie Eagle program for all public college college students in kindergarten via fifth grade.

Republican State Rep. Michael Dodson, a retired U.S. Military lieutenant normal and former commander of Fort Riley within the Flint Hills Area of Kansas, argued towards Eddie Eagle.

“I don’t wish to combine faculties and weapons,” Dodson said. “The issue with children and weapons just isn’t the youngsters. It’s the dad and mom.”

A protected storage modification proposed by Rep. Jo Ella Hoye, a Democrat and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense volunteer, was swiftly defeated. As a compromise, State Sen. Mary Ware, a Democrat from Wichita, proposed an modification that will give college districts the selection to choose out of Eddie Eagle and let educators develop their very own curricula. The modification was defeated.

Different state lawmakers have expressed a lot the identical sentiment in years previous. Arguing in 2000 that faculties ought to be capable of choose their own gun safety programs rather than being forced to go with Eddie Eagle, Maryland State Sen. Barbara Hoffman, a Democrat, stated, “The sorts of entry to weapons that Baltimore Metropolis children have could also be very completely different from the entry by children in Carroll County.”

That the NRA imprimatur is stamped on Eddie Eagle is a non-starter for some. In 2013, the Houston Unbiased Faculty District canceled a presentation to elementary school students by Eddie Eagle when it found this system was a part of the NRA. In 2018, dad and mom in Tennessee objected to their kids, a few of them kindergartners, being given Eddie Eagle handouts at school.

“Faculty is for particular issues, proper? It’s to teach kids in academia,” said one dad. “It’s not about political persuasions and it is not about gun management, and it’s not about ensuring weapons can be found to whomsoever needs to purchase them.”

In response to an inquiry by a neighborhood Fox Information affiliate, the principal of the college stated her administration would “consider different gun security assets” and deliberate to have Mothers Demand Motion for Gun Sense give a presentation to college students.

Shannon Watts, founding father of Mothers Demand, thinks Eddie Eagle is little greater than a thinly veiled advert marketing campaign supposed to create future firearms patrons.

“For a extremely very long time, the NRA has pretended that Eddie Eagle is a accountable strategy to educate children about gun security,” Watts stated. “However it’s really extra like a advertising or a propaganda device, just like Joe Camel in advertising cigarettes to children. And fortunately, Eddie Eagle goes by the wayside, very like Joe Camel did.”

To that finish, this system has featured stars such as Jason Priestley, who performed Brandon Walsh on the hit collection Beverly Hills, 90210, and the animated Eddie Eagle was voiced by Cam Clarke, who additionally supplied the voices of, amongst others, two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Liquid Snake of the Metallic Gear Strong online game franchise. (Priestley didn’t reply to a request for remark despatched by way of his supervisor; Clarke didn’t reply to messages searching for remark.)

Watts, whose group is affiliated with Everytown, insists the duty for gun security “ought to by no means be on kids, as a result of they’ve underdeveloped brains at that age, as a result of they’re curious and impulsive.” In line with figures supplied by Watts, roughly 4.6 million children live in homes with unsecured firearms—a quantity she stated is probably going larger now, with the sharp enhance in gun gross sales within the early days of the pandemic.

“Placing the onus on kids to remain protected round weapons is a recipe for catastrophe,” stated Watts. “However the NRA doesn’t wish to put the onus on gun homeowners, though accountable gun homeowners know that they need to hold their weapons locked, unloaded, separate from ammunition once they’re round children. The NRA needs to encourage weapons for anybody, anytime, anyplace, no questions requested.”

A 2002 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics discovered that younger kids who participated in a weeklong gun security program had been simply as prone to decide up a gun they discovered as children who hadn’t gone via this system.​​

When the NRA was based in 1871, its motto was “Firearms Security Training, Marksmanship Coaching, Taking pictures for Recreation.” Within the Nineteen Thirties, the NRA labored with President Franklin Roosevelt to create the primary gun management legal guidelines. It was throughout this time that NRA President Karl Frederick appeared before Congress, testifying, “I’ve by no means believed within the normal follow of carrying weapons. I don’t consider within the normal promiscuous toting of weapons. I feel it must be sharply restricted and solely underneath licenses.”

To Watts, the NRA misplaced its means after changing into corrupted by “energy and wealth.” Because the group’s base grew to become increasingly excessive through the years, it pulled the NRA to the proper in the identical means the Tea Social gathering pulled the GOP rightward within the Nineties, Watts stated. Ultimately, the NRA threw in its lot with ex-President Donald Trump and shifted even additional to the proper.

On the identical time, Watts believes the NRA “noticed the writing on the wall” as gun owners became older. To take care of its relevance, the NRA wanted to domesticate a brand new era of gun fans, she stated.

“It’s why they attempt to pressure weapons onto school campuses, it’s why they’re in public faculties with grant packages, it’s why they’re attempting to decrease the age for Individuals to purchase handguns from 21 to 18, regardless of knowledge that exhibits that they’re 4 instances prone to commit gun murder,” stated Watts.

Half and parcel of this, in accordance with Watts, is Eddie Eagle, which was revamped in 2015 by Lisa Monroe, an skilled in early childhood schooling on the College of Oklahoma’s Faculty of Training. When the NRA’s outdoors communications company requested Monroe to take part in a program about security, she didn’t see something fallacious with it, she told The Trace in a 2016 interview.

When Monroe later realized the NRA was selling Eddie Eagle as a substitute for baby entry prevention legal guidelines, she was appalled.

“Nobody ever advised me that’s how this system was going for use,” she advised The Hint. “If that they had, I guarantee you, I wouldn’t have something to do with it.” Monroe didn’t reply to The Every day Beast’s request for remark.

By enlarging the dataset being analyzed, Warren Eller, a gun coverage skilled who teaches at New York Metropolis’s John Jay Faculty of Legal Justice, notes that shootings general have really been on the decline over the previous 20 years.

However the numbers aren’t out but for 2021, which Eller expects can be very completely different because of the surge of U.S. gun sales that began at the start of the COVID pandemic.

“This can be a yr we’ve seen an enormous enhance within the variety of first-time gun homeowners, to the tune of tens of tens of millions,” Eller advised The Every day Beast. “And so I’d anticipate we’re going to see a fairly dramatic change in [the number of unintentional shootings].”

The variety of unintentional shootings reported in official knowledge is sort of definitely an undercount, stated Eller, stating that the general public usually solely hears in regards to the instances by which a loss of life or an emergency room go to happens.

The interval from March to December 2020 noticed a 31 % enhance over the identical months in 2019 in unintentional taking pictures deaths by kids, with 314 shootings leading to 128 deaths and 199 nonfatal accidents, in accordance with Watts.

Up to now in 2021, there have been at least 216 unintentional shootings by children, in accordance with Watts, which she stated resulted in 83 deaths and 145 accidents nationwide.

Eli Parker doesn’t keep in mind a lot of what occurred again within the spring of 2002, simply bits and items, in accordance with his mother. After he recovered from his accidents and started attending college, Eli Parker in the end obtained classroom instruction in gun security via the Eddie Eagle program. Nonetheless, his mother was not impressed.

“I’m unsure I’d name what they did a coaching,” she stated. “Extra like a brief dialogue.”

Haley Parker Rinehart stated her former in-laws laid the blame for what had occurred on her and Eli. Rinehart wished to press expenses towards her husband’s mom for leaving the gun out, unsecured. Nonetheless, the legal guidelines in Kentucky didn’t think about what had occurred to be a criminal offense. She later filed a civil lawsuit, to which Eli’s grandmother responded by threatening suicide, stated Rinehart, who determined to lastly lower ties.

Past the bodily scars, Rinehart, who’s now an advocate for Everytown’s own gun safety program, stated the psychological trauma has been “in all probability the toughest” factor to cope with. Each Eli and his brother have suffered from recurring nightmares. Eli was bullied mercilessly by different children at school over his facial scars and prosthetic eye. He has lengthy handled super quantities of guilt, as properly.

Immediately, Eli is working as he takes a break from college. He want to research biomechatronics, and at some point create superior prosthesis for folks with accidents like his personal. Eli’s curiosity within the topic stems from his private expertise being shot, stated Rinehart.


Courtesy Haley Parker Rinehart

The tug-of-war over gun security legal guidelines and the way greatest to stop inadvertent shootings can really feel intractable. In a 2013 interview, a North Carolina man whose son by accident shot and killed his brother with a pistol he present in his dad and mom’ bed room, said he still had mixed feelings about protected storage legal guidelines and gun security measures corresponding to set off locks: “For protection at evening, I don’t suppose it’s best to need to have a lock on it since you’re going to need to entry it shortly.”

Eller doesn’t anticipate the talk surrounding kids’s entry to weapons can be solved anytime quickly, if ever. And it nearly definitely received’t be Eddie Eagle who makes the distinction.

“It’s a fancy difficulty,” Eller stated. “And on this world of coverage narratives and morality politics, we’re not going to discover a good answer. way of=rss | The NRA’s ‘Eddie Eagle’ Gun Security Program for Youngsters Has Imploded


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