The National Rifle Association recognizes the level of distrust surrounding any program related to it involving children and guns. As a result, it has attempted to use the credibility of other organizations in its promotional efforts.
Both the NRA and Marion Hammer have received awards for the Eddie Eagle program. The promotional portfolio designed to aid NRA volunteers in convincing local schools to adopt the Eddie Eagle program contains copies of state resolutions, award certificates, and supposed letters of endorsement from organizations and individuals.
Research by the Violence Policy Center reveals, however, that the NRA has misrepresented the nature of many of these materials: implying endorsement where none exists, mischaracterizing the nature of an award, or failing to acknowledge the organization’s role in facilitating an award.
National Safety Council
In October 1993 the National Safety Council (NSC) gave Marion Hammer a Citation for Outstanding Service through its Community Service Division. The NRA’s leadership and the Eddie Eagle department have subsequently presented this award as an endorsement of the program by the NSC in articles, speeches, Eddie Eagle literature, and state resolutions. Yet contrary to the impression left by the NRA’s material, according to the National Safety Council, the NSC has never evaluated the Eddie Eagle program, nor has it ever officially endorsed the NRA or its Eddie Eagle program. Also left unstated in the NRA’s promotional materials is that its members were instrumental in nominating Hammer for the 1993 NSC award and that one of the judges for the award actually listed his organizational affiliation as the NRA itself. Hammer was nominated for the award by Gerard J. Kennedy, an NSC board member and NRA member. One of the three judges who granted the award was James M. Vinopal, who, in the brochure for the awards program, listed his affiliated organization as the National Rifle Association.x
Recently, the NSC has taken a more active role in working to curb the NRA’s use of its awards to promote Eddie Eagle. In July 1996 the NSC’s Youth Activities Division granted the Eddie Eagle program its Award of Merit. The award is granted to any organization that meets the application form’s set criteria. It is not a competitive process. In the same year that the NRA received its award, 105 other programs also received it. When the public relations department at NSC was notified that the NRA was touting the award on its web site as yet another alleged endorsement, the NSC quickly responded with a letter.yDick Tippie, executive director of member services at the NSC, sent a letter to the director of the Eddie Eagle program, Kathleen Cassidy, in which he stressed:
Because we [NSC] do not go out into the field and evaluate the programs, the National Safety Council does not take a stance on the effectiveness of those programs receiving awards. Therefore, use of the awards as an official endorsement in promotional materials and to garner state resolutions is inappropriate.
And as noted earlier in Appendix One, in May 1997 the NRA placed full-page ads attacking proposed legislation that would require that all handguns sold by gun dealers be sold with trigger locks. The full-page ads featured Eddie Eagle, “the Mascot of the NRA’s award-winning child safety program, which received the National Safety Council’s Silver Award of Merit in 1995.” The answer, the ad stated, was in “education and training” programs like Eddie Eagle. The NRA’s citation of the National Safety Council award garnered a quick rebuke from the organization. In a May 30, 1997 letterz to Marion Hammer, National Safety Council President Gerard F. Scannell wrote:
It has come to the attention of the National Safety Council that, inappropriately and without authorization, your organization has cited an award by the Council’s Youth Activities Division for your Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program in connection with your lobbying efforts against a bill to require trigger lock safety devices on guns.Be advised that the National Safety Council emphatically believes that public education alone is not a sufficient means to address the incidence of death and injury from firearms….We therefore request that the National Rifle Association immediately cease making reference to the National Safety Council or our youth safety award to the Eddie Eagle program in your promotional or lobbying efforts.
D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)
The NRA endorsement packet for the Eddie Eagle program and its newsletter, The Eagle Eye, both include an alleged “endorsement” of Eddie Eagle from the federally funded D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. The NRA encourages D.A.R.E. officers to teach the program as a modified part of the anti-drug curriculum. The Winter 1996 issue of The Eagle Eye, features an interview with Pat Seifert, Eddie Eagle volunteer, who shared her ideas about how she succeeded in getting the program into individual schools: “I had the most luck with D.A.R.E. (Drug Awareness & Resistance Education) officers. In Akron, I was able to provide training for all the city’s D.A.R.E. officers in 1993. The D.A.R.E. officers now include The Eddie Eagle Program in all their schools.” In a July 10, 1996 phone conversation with Jane Colbert, assistant manager of the Eddie Eagle Division, Colbert revealed that “many D.A.R.E. officers around the country do Eddie Eagle in conjunction with the D.A.R.E. curriculum.” She stated that the Eddie Eagle program can be easily modified to fit within the D.A.R.E. anti-drug program. Yet, in a May 2, 1996 letteraa to the Violence Policy Center, Patrick Froehle, deputy director of D.A.R.E. America and a former captain with the Los Angeles Police Department, responded to the NRA’s use of the D.A.R.E. name to promote the Eddie Eagle program:
The issue of gun safety is not specifically addressed in the [D.A.R.E.] curriculum and D.A.R.E. America does not endorse any weapons issue organizations, regardless of their position on gun control or gun safety. Specifically, the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program is not an authorized component of the D.A.R.E. curriculum or program.
Brotherhood Crusade of the Black United Fund, Inc.
The NRA endorsement packet also includes an alleged “endorsement” letter from the Brotherhood Crusade of the Black United Fund, Inc. A May 1996 letter from Vice President of Fundraising Leo Gray to the NRA, however, notes, “The Brotherhood Crusade is not a political organization that engages in the rights of gun owners….We ask that you please refrain from using our letter for political purposes or in any way [that] could be viewed as political.”bb
x) A copy of the brochure is available from the Violence Policy Center.
y) A copy of the letter is available from the Violence Policy Center.
z) A copy of the letter is available from the Violence Policy Center.
aa) A copy of the letter is available from the Violence Policy Center.
bb) A copy of the letter is available from the Violence Policy Center.