The Eddie Eagle program and its namesake character were developed by the National Rifle Association for children who are generally considered too young to be allowed to handle firearms. While maturity levels vary, the Eddie Eagle program is intended for children of any age from pre-school through third grade. The NRA encourages parents and other adults to reach out to schools and inform them of the availability of the program. The NRA provides all the classroom materials at no cost for schools who take advantage of the training.
The program is administered in schools by trained law enforcement officers with the help of a volunteer. The program trains children to avoid causing harm when they encounter firearms, through an easily remembered litany:
- Stop — to take time to remember the rest of the instructions.
- Don't touch — A firearm that is not touched or acted upon by an outside force is highly unlikely to fire, or endanger a person.
- Leave the area — By leaving the area the child removes himself/herself from temptation, as well as from the danger that another person might pick up the gun and negligently cause it to fire.
- Tell an adult — An adult, if not personally trained in handling firearms, should know enough to seek professional assistance.
The curriculum includes workbooks and a short video that re-enforces the instructions. The NRA, which also sponsors training for adults in safe gun-handling, developed this program in response to news stories about deaths and injuries of youths by negligent gunfire and released the program in 2003. Anyone can request a sample of the classroom materials at no cost via the Eddie Eagle webpage.
In 1999 the ABC News program 20/20 did a feature on Eddie Eagle which was highly critical of the program. This anecdotal feature stated that it did not work to simply "Tell [very young] kids what to do" and expect them to follow those instructions implicitly.
The producers had a group of schoolchildren (aged 3 to 10 years old) watch the Eddie Eagle video along with a presentation by a police officer on gun safety. While the children all appeared to understand the message that guns are not toys, when the children were left alone with prop guns (and a hidden camera capturing their reactions), they all proceeded to use them as if they were toys.
The Eddie Eagle programme however is designed as a "one- to five-day format, and used to reach both levels or simply one or two grades" involving the class teacher, not just "a presentation by a police officer".
NRA spokespersons have anecdotal accounts of "saves" made by the program in which children who were in live situations where a gun was found lying around did exactly as the program instructed them to.
- Eddie Eagle
- Joe Camel with feathers : how the NRA with gun and tobacco industry dollars uses its Eddie Eagle program to market guns to kids. - a critical look at the program by the Violence Policy Center