Philadelphia police will stop using a curriculum developed by the National Rifle Association to teach children about guns after gun-safety advocates and some elected officials slammed the department’s use of the videos, city officials said Thursday.
The decision to seek “alternative” ways to educate kids at city recreation centers came a day after Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said during a briefing on Mayor Jim Kenney’s new antiviolence strategy that her officers were using “the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program” to teach children what to do if they encounter a gun.
In August 2019, after six officers were injured during a North Philadelphia shootout, the mayor slammed the gun lobby. “If the state and federal government don’t want to stand up to the NRA, then let us police ourselves,” Kenney said then.
A spokesperson for Kenney deferred comment to police.
Before police announced they are discontinuing its use, spokesperson Officer Tanya Little said the program, for children in pre-K through fourth grade, had “been used in the past for many years and [was] well-received by the children.” She said there was “no partnership with the NRA” and the kid-friendly videos featuring a cartoon eagle mascot are free.
According to the NRA, the program has reached more than 32 million kids nationwide since its inception, including 1.4 million in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of schools and law enforcement agencies have used it over the last decade, the NRA said.
The NRA has touted the program since its creation in 1988 as one that trains curious kids what to do if they come across a gun. The group says Eddie Eagle “makes no value judgments about firearms.” But the NRA has pushed it as an alternative to legislation such as mandatory safe-storage regulations.
According to a 2020 report by the University of Pennsylvania’s PolicyLab, there’s little evidence the program is effective. The report on unintentional gun injury and death among young people found: “While there are some interventions that are shown to increase a child’s knowledge about gun safety, none have demonstrated behavior changes when children are placed in real-world scenarios with a gun present.”
Within hours of Outlaw’s mentioning the program, a handful of elected officials lambasted it. State Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat who represents Center City, tweeted that “there is absolutely NO PLACE” for the program in Philadelphia. City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who represents West Philadelphia, wrote: “These are the last people we need to be partnering with.”
Adam Garber, executive director of the gun-safety group Ceasefire PA, said he was “shocked” Philadelphia police were using a program developed by the NRA, saying initiatives like gun-lock giveaways are more effective.
“Eddie Eagle isn’t intended to make communities safer,” he said. “It’s a messaging campaign by the NRA to say, ‘Look, we don’t need stronger gun laws, we need decision-making by kids.’”