Government Report finds NRA’s Gun Safety Program Ineffective

On October 18th, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report focused on gun safety programs for children.  The report was a review of four peer-reviewed research papers published between 1996 and 2009 in academic journals.

The report concluded that children who received gun safety instruction, such as leaving the room or not touching a gun, were no more likely to follow the rules than those who had not received the instruction.

The GAO analysis showed that each of the four studies came to the same conclusion: informational sessions or videos such as the National Rifle Association’s “Eddie Eagle” program “did not instill consistent safe firearm habits in young children.”

For two years, The Safe Tennessee Project has tried to advance MaKayla’s Law, a child access prevention bill named for MaKayla Dyer, a 9-year-old little girl who was fatally shot by an 11-year-old neighbor when she wouldn’t let him play with her puppy.  The 11-year-old used his father’s loaded, easily accessible shotgun.  The boy was charged, prosecuted, and convicted. He will remain incarcerated until his 19th birthday.  His father was charged with no crime and has since left the state.

The law sought to hold adult gun owners responsible if their choice to leave a loaded gun accessible led to a minor under the age of 13 firing the weapon and injuring or killing themselves or someone else.

Although the boy who shot MaKayla did so intentionally, that is not the case for most shootings involving children with access to negligently stored firearms.  The vast majority of these shootings are unintentional.  Many of the children pulling triggers are young kids.  Of the 26 such shootings we have tracked this year in Tennessee, 15 involved children under the age of 13.  Five were toddlers.  The youngest was a one year old. Many of the children shoot themselves, but sometimes they shoot other children.  Four kids this year shot a sibling or other relative. Two of those children, a 7-year-old girl in Nashville and 13-year-old boy in Perry County, died.

According to the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance (CFSA), which Beth Joslin Roth, the policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project co-founded, Tennessee currently leads the entire nation in shootings related to negligent firearm storage.  Florida is second with 21 while Texas is third with 20. (CFSA is an organization of physicians, policy makers, and gun violence prevention groups focused on raising awareness about shootings due to negligent firearms storage.

In 2016, using news and media reports, CFSA logged over 300 shootings nationwide involving children with access to unsecured, loaded guns.

Last year, a joint investigation by the Associated Press and USA Today found that Memphis ranks first in the nation for unintentional shootings of minors.  Nashville was tenth.

The National Rifle Association was the most outspoken opponent of MaKayla’s Law.  They sent out numerous action alert emails to their members, urging them to contact legislators to vote against the bill. They called the bill “erroneous” and never referred to the it as “MaKayla’s Law” because that would mean acknowledging the very type of preventable tragedy this bill sought to addressScreen Shot 2017-10-20 at 11.49.34 AM

“If anti-gun legislators were serious about keeping kids safe, they would know that the key to reducing firearm accidents isn’t about prosecuting after the fact,” the alert from the NRA said. “It’s about educating children and parents about the safe use of firearms. 

The alert concluded with a plug for the Eddie Eagle program

The NRA has spent years discrediting child access prevention laws and pushing Eddie Eagle instead, despite research, like that reviewed in the GAO report, that shows that educational programs are in no way an adequate substitute for responsible gun storage. 

Even Lisa Monroe, the academic who worked with the NRA to revamp the Eddie Eagle curriculum, says the group is misusing the program and that it is not an alternative to negligent storage legislation or laws that would hold adults responsible when their gun is used by a child to injure or kill themselves or someone else.

“No one ever told me that’s how the program was going to be used,” Monroe said. “If they I had, I assure you, I wouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

Child access prevention laws would have no impact whatsoever on the majority of gun owners who are responsible and who would never think of leaving their gun unlocked and unsecured.  The only gun owners who would face charges would be those whose careless and irresponsible decision to leave their loaded gun accessible led to an injury or death.

Why do lawmakers in Tennessee continue to care more about protecting irresponsible gun owners than Tennessee kids? How many more children’s lives must be cut short before they decide to hold these adults responsible?

While we may not know the answer to those questions, what we do know is that doing absolutely nothing besides relying on a program proven to be ineffective is not working.  Kids continue to be injured and killed in these completely preventable shootings. And our legislators, beholden to the NRA, shrug.

Gun safety education for children is important.  Children must be taught what to do if they encounter a gun, at home or at a friend or relative’s house.  But, the only guaranteed way to prevent children from unintentionally shooting themselves or someone else is to store firearms responsibly – locked, unloaded, with ammunition stored separately.  If your approach to gun safety is simply telling your child “stop, don’t touch, tell an adult”, you are putting your child and your family at tremendous danger.


JANUARY 1 2017 – OCTOBER 20 2017
10 Fatalities
16 Injuries
15 Incidents where shooter was under age 13
26 Total incidents to date in 2017

JANUARY 1 2016 – OCTOBER 20, 2016
4 Fatalities
15 Injuries
7 Incidents where shooter was under age 13
22 Total incidents in all of 2016

JANUARY 1 2015 – OCTOBER 2015
6 Fatalities
9 Injuries
4 Incidents where shooter was under age 13
21 Total incidents in all of 2015