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The Philadelphia Police Department is ending its use of a youth gun education program created by the National Rifle Association following immediate blowback over the gun rights organization’s involvement.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw had announced police officers were using the “Eddie Eagle” curriculum to teach children about guns in city rec centers, as part of the Kenney administration’s larger anti-violence unveiled Wednesday.
Studies found the 33-year-old gun safety program to be ineffective, and the NRA has used it to argue against new gun regulations, Billy Penn reported this morning.
Gun safety advocates and city leaders pushed back. CeaseFire PA gathered hundreds of signatures from people calling for the department to drop the NRA-connected program. Councilmember Isaiah Thomas called it “two steps backwards,” and Councilmember Jamie Gauthier tweeted that “these are the last people we need to be partnering with on gun violence.”
A day after Outlaw introduced the program, her department backtracked.
“We heard you loud and clear!” the department tweeted Thursday. “Our Community Relations Officers will no longer utilize ‘Eddie Eagle’ training materials when teaching gun safety awareness classes at city rec centers.”
Outlaw said Wednesday that the department’s community relations unit was using the program to provide kids with “instructions on what to do if they come across a gun.” The city’s historic gun violence surge has brought a spike in shootings of children — many of them accidental, as a result of unsecured firearms.
No NRA officials were involved in the actual program.
“The program is free, the materials are free, and it is instructed by police officers,” Sgt. Eric Gripp wrote in an email. “Children’s curiosity and lack of awareness leads to unfortunate incidents, and this is why we feel teaching these types of programs is important.”
The department added that it will select alternative teaching materials to teach kids about gun safety.