Camel with Feathers: How the NRA with Gun and Tobacco Industry Dollars Uses its
Eddie Eagle Program to Market Guns to Kids
primary goal of the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle program is not to
safeguard children, but to protect the interests of the NRA and the firearms industry
by making guns more acceptable to children and youth. The Eddie Eagle program
employs strategies similar to those utilized by America's tobacco industry—from
youth "educational" programs that are in fact marketing tools to the use of appealing
cartoon characters that aim to put a friendly face on a hazardous product. The
hoped-for result is new customers for the industry and new members for the NRA.
Policy Center research reveals for the first time that manufacturers of firearms,
ammunition, and related products directly contribute hundreds of thousands of
tax-deductible dollars to the NRA through its "affiliate," The NRA Foundation.
The Foundation in turn then makes "grants" to the NRA to fund the Eddie Eagle
program. Financial contributors to The NRA Foundation include Saturday Night Special
or "junk gun" manufacturers, rifle and shotgun manufacturers, and manufacturers
of ammunition and reloading equipment. Donation of land of unknown value has also
been made by industry members to The NRA Foundation for endowment programs. Industry
members have also facilitated the donation of more than a million dollars to the
NRA through point-of-purchase dealer and catalog sale programs.
Policy Center research reveals for the first time that the tobacco industry has
contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the NRA through The NRA Foundation.
of the marketing problems being faced today by the NRA and the firearms industry
are, in fact, similar to those faced in the past by the cigarette and smokeless
tobacco industries. Faced with declines in its primary market, the gun industry
and the NRA, like the tobacco industry before them, have expanded their market
to include women and children—even though guns, like tobacco, cannot legally be
sold to children or youth. Yet while the tobacco industry denies that it is working
to entice children to use its product, the NRA and the gun industry openly acknowledge
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—on both the state
and federal levels.
interviews conducted by the Violence Policy Center and the Global Survival Network
with NRA staff at gun industry trade shows confirm that Eddie Eagle is not only
a thinly disguised marketing tool used to "soften up guns" in the words of one
NRA staffer—essentially Joe Camel with feathers—but also acts as the "the clean-up
committee" to help burnish the NRA's public image after gun control battles.
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." Or as one NRA Foundation official quoted in the article
put it, "The industry is an indirect beneficiary of this program." The article
also notes that The NRA Foundation is "getting some major league support from
several giants in the industry" and one industry member estimated that as many
as 20 firearm industry companies or their CEOs were involved in the Foundation's
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.
[pp. 42-46] The NRA has also erroneously claimed endorsement by D.A.R.E. (Drug
Abuse Resistance Education) and the Black United Fund, Inc.
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.
health researchers have found that "gun safety" programs like Eddie Eagle are
ineffective in preventing unintentional death and injury from firearms. In an
educational brochure for parents, "Keep Your Family Safe From Firearm Injury,"
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."