Kansas dodged a bullet

Kansas dodged a bullet: There won’t be a law requiring public school students under the age of 12 to submit to NRA indoctrination.



May 20, 2021 - 9:05 AM

Wayne LaPierre, NRA vice president and CEO, speaks to guests at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits on April 26, 2019, in Indianapolis. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/TNS)

Kansas dodged a bullet: There won’t be a law requiring public school students under the age of 12 to submit to NRA indoctrination. House Bill 2089, passed by the legislature but vetoed by the Governor, would have accomplished just that, codifying the NRA Eddie Eagle GunSafe accident prevention program into our state’s elementary school curriculum.

I grew up in rural America, the cradle of this county’s gun culture. If not a chicken in every pot, at least a rifle in every house. The first day of pheasant season so many of my classmates would be absent it felt like a national holiday. Sometimes my father would let young men, farm boys back from Vietnam, hunt in our wintering fields; they’d return with rabbits, field-dressed and peppered with buckshot, which my mother soaked and cleaned in a sink filled with saltwater.

My father taught all of his daughters how to shoot with the Luger he’d brought back from his own war, the one he seldom spoke of. He kept several pistols in his closet inside a metal box — next to his 95th Infantry patch, a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, and the pins with rifles and laurels, I only know all these years later as Combat Infantryman badges. My sisters and I never touched that box, just as we never touched the shotgun that stood next to it.

I have nothing against guns.

What I do have a problem with is legislation that would allow the nation’s most powerful and polarizing gun lobby to inculcate grade school students with their brand under the guise of gun safety education.

Make no mistake, Eddie Eagle is a marketing tool. It was NRA lobbyist, executive, and uber-influencer Marion Hammer who cooked up the Eddie Eagle concept in 1988.

“I pledge to you to dedicate my term in office to two demanding missions. One is building an NRA bridge to America’s youth,” she later said at an NRA convention. “The other is being fiscally far-sighted to provide for bold new programs that will teach America’s children values to last a lifetime. It will be an old-fashioned wrestling match for the hearts and minds of our children.”

Eddie Eagle has often been compared to the tobacco industry’s Joe Camel. In many ways the Eddie Eagle campaign seems to be modeled on doing exactly what the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement prohibits, i.e. targeting young people.

Use of cartoons? Cartoon eagle. Check.

Celebrity endorsements? Hire Hollywood 90210 actor to do Eddie Eagle video. Check.

Merchandising to children? Print up Eddie stickers with a big “©NRA”. Check.

Ackerman McQueen, the ad agency that handled all of the NRA’s marketing, media (NRATV), and public relations for nearly four decades, tweaked Eddie Eagle over the years. The agency eventually solicited the assistance of a University of Oklahoma education professor to give some credence to the campaign. The cartoons progressed from the dorky, racially insensitive Jason Priestley version to the current one featuring a blue-eyed eagle with his team of stereotypes masquerading as diversity. Strip away the basketball shtick, pizza party with a gun-friendly authority figure, the slapstick of Gary the game-geek Goose, a hyperactive hummingbird and frat-boy interpretations of ethnicity, and frankly, there’s not much left. The academic later recanted her support.

The entire Eddie Eagle “curriculum” seems to be devoid of substantive educational merit. Compared to the McGruff the Crime Dog firearm safety education program — which also uses the catchphrase, “Stop. Don’t Touch. Get away. Tell an adult.” — Eddie Eagle is dumbed-down, dated and redundant.

The handouts consist of three vapid packets for children ages 4 through 10, padded with the same hackneyed coloring pages. The instructor guides include recommendations like: reinforce the alphabet, show an understanding of grammar and language, or have students draw the cartoon characters. Move over, Baby Einstein.

The McGruff material, created in partnership with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, actually sounds like it was written by educators who understand instructional concepts, and the activity pages show the same level of competency.