Another accidental firearm fatality prompts question yet again: Who is to blame when children have accidents with guns?

by Chad D. Baus

As the editor of news content at, I peruse a great deal of gun-related news each and every day, and am usually among the first to learn of incidents involving accidental shootings.

While nationwide statistics prove that at the same time gun ownership in America is at an all-time high, and firearm accident fatalities are at an all-time low (it is 3 times more likely that a child will be struck by lightning than die from a firearm accident), ANY accidental death is tragic.

Last Wednesday, March 14, such a tragedy came to my northwest Ohio neighborhood, when a 13 year-old boy in Wauseon was shot to death on the way to school after he and a 14 year-old friend stopped by a third boy's house. Early reports were sketchy and in some cases wildly inaccurate, but it appears that the 14 year-old aimed a 12 gauge shotgun at the victim and accidentally fired it, striking the victim in the chest at close range.

When I first learned of the tragic circumstances, my mind immediately went to the commands I taught my boys beginning at the age of three about what to do if they see a gun:

"STOP! Don't Touch! Leave the area! Tell an adult!"

These simple commands have been taught to over 23 million children via the the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program. When children are taught what to do if they find a gun, accidents like these are much less likely to happen.

While I believe this important material should be mandated to be taught in every classroom in Ohio, the ultimate responsibility for teaching children what to do if they find a gun rest with parents. Parents must teach this to their children whether or not they keep a firearm in their home, for the simple fact that the child will not always be in the home. As this latest example shows once again, the potential exists for children to come into unauthorized, unsupervised contact with a firearm, and only proactive education by their parents can prevent a negative outcome when they do.

Teaching children what to do if they find a gun is no different than teaching a child that ovens should always be considered hot, that matches and lighters are not to be played with, or that they should not talk to strangers. Most of us do not make a habit of keeping strangers in our homes, yet no one would debate the importance of educating our children about potential predators.

Believe it or not, there is actually a group of people involved in fighting against efforts to educate children on this important information: gun ban extremists.

In 2001, a group of nurses evaluated more than 80 gun accident prevention programs designed to help kids learn what to do if they find a gun, and published the results of their study in the Journal of Emergency Nursing Online. The study named The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program as one of the very best. Additionally, Eddie Eagle has been endorsed by the National Safety Council, the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Sheriff's Association. Yet because this program was devised by people involved with the National Rifle Association (NRA), gun ban extremists do everything they can to make certain that children are not taught the important lessons this curriculum contains.

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program has no agenda other than accident prevention - ensuring that children stay safe should they encounter a gun. Despite the fact that the program prohibits the use of Eddie Eagle mascots anywhere that guns are present, gun ban extremists have taken to disparaging Eddie Eagle as "Joe Camel with feathers".

Indeed, because of her hatred for the NRA, Toledo's Toby Hoover, who often appears to be a one-woman show at the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, either lied or betrayed her ignorance about gun safety (a topic about which journalists insist on presenting her as an expert) about the proven effectiveness of this program to The Columbus Dispatch in 2007, saying "There isn't a program out there that has proven effective."

"There isn't a program out there that has proven effective." The nurses behind the Journal of Emergency Nursing Online study heartily disagree.

Unfortunately, the myth created by the gun ban crowd, who claim to be proponents of safety ("if it saves the life of just one child..."), has taken root in many places.

In 2003, when the Ohio legislature had the good wisdom to set aside funds for elementary schools to purchase curriculum materials for The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program, the extremists were deeply critical:

"Just like the alcohol and tobacco industries have worked to find ways to reach out to underage consumers, Eddie Eagle is one component of the NRA's efforts to reach out to underage gun consumers," [Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh] Sugarmann said.

Evidence that the lies told by gun ban extremists' had taken root was revealed when the funds the General Assembly set aside for schools were pulled after one budget cycle - too few schools took advantage of it.

It is because of comments like Hoover's and Sugarmann's that I place a large share of the blame for accidents like the one in Wauseon on gun ban extremists, who are putting their desire to weaken a political enemy ahead of children's lives.

And it is because of comments like Hoover's and Sugarmann's that I believe was unsuccessful at getting my offer to volunteer my time to teach The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program in my local elementary school accepted.

After trying for nearly a year back in 2006-2007, and after working around concerns about how much time the program would take away from class studies, etc., I reached what I suspected was the real reason for the hesitancy, when the powers-that-be referenced "a desire to stay away from any materials printed or published or endorsed for political causes," despite having already been provided with materials stressing that Eddie Eagle is never shown touching a firearm, that he does not promote firearm ownership or use, that the program never mentions the NRA, nor does it encourage children to buy guns or to become NRA members.

What have we come to in this country when educators fail to take advantage of offers of free teaching materials designed to prevent children from potential tragedy, especially when it is being offered by volunteer instructors? And what does it say about these so-called anti-gun "safety" extremists that they actively attempt to torpedo a program that has been proven to work to reduce incidents of children having accidents with firearms?

If your children haven't been taught what to do if they find a gun, it is your responsibility to teach them. ORDER THE VIDEO NOW!

If your school isn't teaching The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program, ask the superintendent why not. Anyone can teach the material, and it can be covered in 30 minutes to an hour. Volunteer to do it for them!

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program is designed for students in grades K-3. The self-explanatory program includes a student workbook, corresponding instructor guide, reward stickers, posters and parent guides.

School districts wishing to participate in the program should call the National Rifle Association at (800) 231-0752, email [email protected] or visit

Finally, it is important to note that while voluntarily choosing to lock firearms should certainly be among the safe storage options parents consider, efforts by the state to mandate such a practice are dangerous and ineffective. According to analysis by Dr. John R. Lott Jr. and as published in his book The Bias Against Guns:

Safe storage laws have no impact on accidental gun deaths… The only consistent impact of safe storage laws is to raise rape, robbery and burglary rates, and the effects are very large. My most conservative estimates show that safe storage laws resulted in 3,738 more rapes, 21,000 more robberies, and 49,733 more burglaries annually in the fifteen states with these laws. More realistic estimates indicate across-the-board increases in violent and property crimes. During the five full years after the passage of the safe storage laws, the fifteen states face an annual average increase of 309 more murders, 3860 more rapes, 24650 more robberies, and over 25,000 more aggravated assaults.

The impact of safe storage laws is consistent with existing research indicating that the guns most likely to be used in accidental shootings are owned by the least law-abiding citizens and thus are the guns least likely to be locked up after passage of the law. The safe storage laws thus increase crime, yet fail to produce any significant change in accidental deaths or suicides.

The answer truly is education, and Ohio schools should be called upon to ensure that all children are being taught what to do if they see a gun.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman, an NRA-certified firearms instructor and the proud father of two Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program graduates.

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