Contributor article: Eddie the Eagle in School

One subject I believe (without any polling) the vast majority of us support is real gun safety. When a child is injured or killed by a gun, it hurts us all. I believe that the best way to keep that from happening is for children to learn from an early age what to do if they find themselves around a gun without adult supervision. To that end, this is a short story about how I helped get a firearms safety course taught in our local elementary school. I cannot take credit for anything much beyond being a catalyst to launch the program, but sometimes just a spark is all it takes.

In 2019, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a very poor law, the Safe Storage Law, Public Act No. 19-5. However, a part of the act did do a very good thing. It changed the language of an existing statute, directing the State Board of Education to develop, “guides to aid local and regional boards of education in developing firearm safety programs for students in grades kindergarten to [eight] twelve, inclusive, in the public schools” from “may” (which they never did) to “shall”. That guide (found here) was finally published in the Spring of 2021 and is actually a useful document.

When CCDL (Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League) notified its membership of the new guide, they encouraged members to contact their local School Boards to support actually teaching a firearm safety course in their local school. I wrote an email about the training to the Chair of the Barkhamsted, CT BOE, and the Chair forwarded my email to Jim Agostine our new Superintendent of Schools. Jim emailed me and initiated a phone conversation. Jim was most receptive to the idea, having used the Eddie the Eagle program for second graders in his previous school system. I offered to do some basic research on the program, including costs, and he took the idea to the School Board.

As with everything involved with government, nothing happens overnight, and in small towns that can be in spades. Nevertheless, Jim’s initial approach to the Board got a favorable response and we continued to develop the information necessary to go forward. However, things did stall a bit and I offered to send a letter to the Board with a formal request to implement the training for one grade in the Elementary School. While I have no real standing in town other than being a resident and taxpayer, apparently it helped. The town got the funding for the Eddie the Eagle program materials, our Resident Trooper volunteered to help deliver the training, and it happened in the Spring of 2022! Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the event, but the good news is that it will be taught again this Spring to this year’s second grade class. Our hope is to expand it to teach a second course to the fifth grade class each year as well, but that is still in the future.

While this is not a very exciting story, it did show me that we can make changes at the local level if we are just willing to speak up and to provide help and encouragement. It won’t always happen as smoothly as this did for me, but I was extremely lucky to make contact with an official who was already disposed to support my request on the first try. Find that person and your odds of success skyrocket. I want to believe that it also helped that I was willing to do some basic research about programs and help make contact with possible instructors, but the real work was done by Jim and his staff and would not have happened without his enthusiastic support.

It also introduced me to the Eddie the Eagle program. While I had heard of the program, I had never looked into the details. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend visiting the site to see for yourself. The NRA did a great job and spent your money well for once, but I’ll warn you, once you watch the movie you won’t get the jingle out of your head! This is true Gun Safety and the more we can get it out there, the safer our kids will be. Even if your school isn’t willing to teach the program, you could present it within you gun club or other organization. Just do it!