Arizona Bill Would School All Kids With NRA's Near-Useless 'Eddie Eagle' Propaganda
An Arizona Republican has a terrific idea to help keep kids safe: Require all Arizona school kids to take a gun safety class in middle school or high school, using the National Rifle Association's "Eddie Eagle" gun safety program, which is designed for far younger children (pre-kindergarten to fourth grade) and doesn't actually improve safe behavior among young children anyway.
Hey, maybe if it doesn't actually prevent unsafe behavior around guns for young kids, it might work better with teens, so state Rep. Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott Valley) wants to mandate it for all kids in secondary school, good idea, you really care about the children.
Oops, looks like we already gave the two main pieces of supporting evidence showing why this measure, Arizona HB 2448, is a stupid garbage bill, before even getting to our thesis statement, which is that Arizona HB 2448 is a stupid garbage bill. It'll probably become law anyway, because Republicans like it, it's the NRA, and why are you Dems against gun safety if you're always saying you're for gun safety, huh? Hypocrites.
One of the selling points of the bill, according to Nguyen, is that the emphasis of the classes would be entirely on safety; the bill specifies that there's to be no instruction in actually using firearms, or hunting. And parents would be allowed to remove their kids from the classes, even, so that's nice. Speaking to the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee Monday, Nguyen emphasized that the bill "is not about bringing firearms into school," which is also a relief.
The Arizona Mirror notes that Rep. Nguyen works "as a volunteer coach for the Arizona Scorpions Junior High-Power Rifle team and also serves as President of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association." But as far as we can tell, he's not actively recruiting, apart from pushing the NRA's Eddie Eagle thing, which again, is designed for far younger kids than the middle/high school students who'll be required to use the instructional materials. But then, what high school junior wouldn't just love these adorable CGI characters?
If Nguyen has any thoughts on making gun safety videos developed for the "Paw Patrol" set more palatable to older students, we haven't seen it reported. We bet high schoolers will really get a kick out of chanting the NRA's easy four-step mantra for what to do if they see a real gun: “STOP! Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown-up.” Mostly, they'll yell that about staplers, algebra books, and probably the Eddie Eagle materials themselves.
Now, as we mentioned way back in the first paragraph, there's plenty of reason to be skeptical of the Eddie Eagle program to start with, as the Daily Beast reported last August in this must-read piece. While the various versions of the program have been praised by law enforcement groups and politicians, there's a bit of a problem with its actual efficacy in real life. A 2004 study by researchers at the University of North Dakota found that while children learned to repeat the four-step safety slogan, the program didn't actually result in children staying away from guns in a real-life simulation. (A follow-up study found that teaching about gun avoidance using "behavior skills training" and by demonstrating the desired behaviors in a real-life setting did work — while the Eddie Eagle program again didn't affect kids' behavior.)
Now, if there's been any research on how Eddie Eagle might prevent risky behavior among older kids, we haven't seen it. But there's no shortage of research showing that having a gun in the home dramatically increases deaths and injuries among children. Want kids to be safe? Either don't have a gun in the house, or keep it locked in a safe. No, not "hidden" in a nightstand drawer.
Nonetheless, Nguyen said it's absolutely necessary to get this age-inappropriate stuff into middle and high schools, to save the children. Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts reports that when state Rep. Jennifer Longdon (D-Phoenix) called attention to the research on the program's ineffectiveness with young kids, Nguyen replied, "This is not a reason why we should stop teaching firearms safety altogether," because after all, he thinks it's very effective, which magically makes it very effective.
He notes that 104 children died in 2021 from accidental shootings and that his bill would help protect children.
“If you don’t think that it's critical that we teach our children to be safe around guns,” he said to Democrats who opposed the bill. “If you want to close your eyes and say you know what, 104 kids, it’s not worth teaching … .”
Yeah, libs, why do you want kids to die when there's this probably worthless program from the gun lobby that could be wheeled out to pretend it'll keep kids from dying?
There's another big whopping reason to oppose bringing Eddie Eagle to kids who'll mostly just make fun of it, as the Daily Beast points out: The NRA developed its "safety program" as an "alternative" to a proposed Florida law that would have allowed criminal charges against gun owners whose firearms were stored carelessly enough that a minor would be "likely to gain access” to them.
The NRA haaaaaates any gun regulations at all, and even requiring safe storage of guns in homes with children is literally tyranny.
The NRA's top Florida lobbyist, Marion Hammer, loudly opposed the safe storage law, arguing that the way to make kids safe isn't to keep guns out of their hands (and potentially out of your hands if the government turns tyrannical), but rather to use cartoony birds to teach life-saving slogans that don't work in reality. The Florida law passed, but that hardly deterred the NRA:
In the years since, the NRA has used the Eddie Eagle program to argue against similar gun safety bills and trigger lock laws in other states, calling each an “intrusive proposal [that] invades people’s homes and forces them to render their firearms useless in a self-defense situation by locking them up.” In Indiana, the NRA helped deep-six a child access prevention law, successfully lobbying for mandatory Eddie Eagle classes for schoolchildren, instead. The NRA’s influence can be witnessed front-and-center: A 2013 Missouri bill encouraging schools to adopt the Eddie Eagle program explicitly states, “School personnel and program instructors must not make value judgments about firearms.”
In contrast to the NRA approach, however, the research really does suggest that safe-storage laws work; a 2018 Rand Corporation analysis found that six studies of such "child access prevention" laws did indeed show they reduce accidental deaths and injuries to children.
In Arizona, Rep Longdon introduces a safe-storage every year, but it generally goes nowhere.
Instead, the Lege is likely to pass Nguyen's bill, so all kids will have to learn about guns from an NRA mascot. Mandatory gun safety, even if it's kind of worthless. But Republicans really think this bill's needed. See for instance Rep John Kavanaugh (R-Fountain Hills), who explained
I can’t think of any parent in their right mind that wouldn’t want this. I would forward the name and address of the parent to child protective services if they opted out of this.
Nice to see someone finally cares about parents' rights. It's all the rage with Republicans these days
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