New Violence Policy Center (VPC) Study Labels NRA’s Eddie Eagle “Gun Safety” Program “Joe Camel With Feathers”

For Release: Wednesday, November 19, 1997

Study Details How NRA’s Effort to Hook Kids on Guns Follows Trail Blazed by Tobacco Industry

Reveals for the First Time Gun and Tobacco Industry Funding of NRA

Washington—In its efforts to hook kids on guns, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is following a trail blazed by the tobacco industry according to a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study conducted with the Global Survival Network. The 144-page study, Joe Camel with Feathers: How the NRA with Gun and Tobacco Industry Dollars Uses its Eddie Eagle Program to Market Guns to Kids, was released on Wednesday, November 19th at a 10:00 AM press conference in the Lisagor Room at the National Press Club located at 14th and F Streets, NW in Washington, DC.

The study takes a hard look at the NRA’s Eddie Eagle “gun safety” program—which the organization has aggressively promoted as an alternative to gun safety measures such as child access prevention (CAP) laws (which require that adults store their firearms safely and inaccessible to children) and legislation mandating the use of trigger locks.

The study finds that the primary goal of the Eddie Eagle program is not to safeguard children, but to protect the financial and political interests of the NRA and the firearms industry. The program makes firearms more palatable to children and youth, helping to recruit them into America’s gun culture. The Eddie Eagle program employs strategies similar to those used by the tobacco industry—from youth “educational” programs that are in fact marketing tools to appealing cartoon characters that put a friendly face on a hazardous product. While the tobacco industry denies that it is marketing to children, the NRA and the gun industry openly admit that they are.

The study documents for the first time gun industry funding of NRA activities. Tax-deductible money donated by manufacturers of firearms, ammunition, and related products is funneled through the NRA’s tax-exempt sister organization, The NRA Foundation. The VPC has uncovered at the very minimum hundreds of thousands of gun-industry dollars donated to The NRA Foundation. These funds are then transferred to the NRA in the form of “grants.” The NRA then uses these “grants” to fund the Eddie Eagle program and other activities. Gun industry members who have contributed to the NRA in this way include Saturday Night Special or “junk gun” manufacturers, rifle and shotgun manufacturers, and manufacturers of ammunition and reloading equipment. A laudatory article distributed by The NRA Foundation as a promotional flyer concludes, “The Foundation is a mechanism by which the firearms industry can promote shooting sports education, cultivating the next generation of shooters. Translate that to future customers.” VPC research also reveals that the tobacco industry has made contributions to The NRA Foundation.

VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann, one of the study’s authors, states, “The NRA has always protested that it receives no money from the gun industry. We’ve put that lie to rest. We’ve followed the money trail—and it leads from the gun industry to Eddie Eagle. Just as Joe Camel helped hook a generation on tobacco, the NRA and the gun industry hope to use Eddie Eagle to hook a new generation on guns.”

Other key findings of the study include:

  • NRA staff describe the Eddie Eagle program as the “clean-up committee” to help burnish the NRA’s public image after gun control battles.
  • The NRA uses Eddie Eagle as a lobbying tool in its efforts to derail the passage of child access prevention (CAP) and mandatory trigger lock laws.
  • In its attempts to use the credibility of other organizations to promote the Eddie Eagle program, the NRA has misrepresented awards granted to the program by the National Safety Council, which has issued a series of sharp rebukes to the NRA. The NRA has also erroneously claimed endorsement by D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and the Black United Fund, Inc.
  • Rather than recognizing the inherent danger firearms in the home pose to children, and the often irresponsible firearms storage behavior of adults, the Eddie Eagle program places the onus of safety and responsibility on the children themselves.
  • Public health researchers have found that “gun safety” programs like Eddie Eagle are ineffective in preventing unintentional death and injury from firearms. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “[b]ecause even the most well-behaved children are curious by nature and will eagerly explore their environment, the safest thing is to not keep a gun at home.”

Study co-author VPC Health Policy Analyst Sue Glick adds, “The real purpose of Eddie Eagle is not to keep children safe from guns, but safe with guns. Eddie Eagle flies in the face of everything public health experts teach to prevent injury from dangerous consumer products. The NRA expects kids to be responsible for their own safety—essentially guns don’t kill, kids do.”




About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Georgia Seltzer
(202) 822-8200 x104