When my son was still a very young child, one of the biggest challenges I had as a parent was teaching him to stop and look both ways at neighborhood intersections. His instinct was to go ahead without looking, eager to explore the world and whatever new it had to show him next.
Yes, there were stop signs at most intersections.
But I never believed that cars would always stop, or that my son would always be seen by drivers. Beneath my constant annoyance of “stop and look both ways” – delivered over and over to my son, until it finally took – was this belief: You can’t expect other people to take care of the your safety. You need to take care of yours and be smart about it.
Which brings us to the topic of guns, of course.
My philosophy on cars, intersections and safety also applies to firearms. You have to protect yourself. So I’d really like to support a bill now in the Kansas Legislature that would push elementary schools across the state to offer gun safety classes based on the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program.
The problem? I cannot.
Let’s start with why me Want to support the bill. It’s not that I love the NRA, which has evolved from its origins as a recreational gun safety group into a right-wing lobbying machine largely funded by a firearms industry eager to put its product in the public eye. hands of young people all over the country. And it’s not that I embrace America’s gun culture, which seems increasingly bent on proving that the maxim “An armed society is a polite society” is a monstrous lie.
But there are a lot of guns out there. And many of them kill Kansas children: 125 children died in this state of gunshot wounds between 2016 and 2020, according to a September report from the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, in incidents ranging from actual homicides and proper to suicides to tragic accidents. In 2020, more Kansas children died from firearms than from automobile accidents.
It’s awful. If it were up to me, I’d call it a crime for parents not to lock guns in the house. Realistically, that’s not going to happen in Kansas any time soon. So if there’s a good way to teach kids about gun safety, we absolutely should do it.
Some people think this unfairly places the burden on potential victims, instead of gun owners.
“So since guns are everywhere now, we now have to train our children to stay safe?” asked State Representative Stephanie Sawyer Clayton, a Democrat from Overland Park, during a Kansas House committee hearing on the bill Tuesday.
Unfortunately yes. Only if we can do it effectively, though.
And that’s the problem. Because it just seems like Eddie Eagle’s resume — complete with his team of Saturday morning cartoon-ready mascots — doesn’t really work. A 2004 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children who had taken the program didn’t actually take his lessons when they encountered guns in real-world situations.
Of course, that studio is almost 20 years old. But on Tuesday, NRA lobbyist Travis Couture-Lovelady bowed out when he called for new evidence of the program’s effectiveness.
“The program has been very effective for many years,” he said, adding, “I understand that they have tried to discredit the program through a study, but no, I find it very effective.” He offered no numbers or data.
Simply stating that something is effective does not actually make it effective.
It’s not just an NRA problem, though. A 2018 Rutgers University study looked at a variety of gun safety programs for children, including Eddie Eagle. His conclusion: “Gun safety programs do not appear to reduce the likelihood of children handling firearms safely.”
Which suggests Eddie Eagle’s bill is more about showmanship than actual safety. We can try to teach kids to be safe with guns, but it probably won’t matter. As long as we keep guns where children live and play, however, they will always be in danger.