NRA child gun-safety ef­fort tran­scends partisan pol­i­tics

The Arizona Republic - - COMMUNITIES - ALEXIS EGELAND

It’s not of­ten a Demo­cratic Ari­zona law­maker joins forces with the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

But Satur­day, Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolle­son, and the NRA joined West Val­ley law en­force­ment in a non­par­ti­san ef­fort to teach chil­dren about gun safety.

The event, held at Pot of Gold Es­tate auc­tion house in down­town Avon­dale, uti­lized the NRA’s Ed­die Ea­gle gun safety pro­gram to teach kids from kinder­garten through fifth grade.

About 40 kids and their par­ents at­tended.

Par­tic­i­pants watched the Ed­die Ea­gle video, a car­toon about a group of kids that find a gun at the park and don’t know what to do.

A catchy song and dance re­mind the kids how they should han­dle the sit­u­a­tion: “Stop. Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown-up.”

Af­ter the video, the group did in­ter­ac­tive ac­tiv­i­ties to help the kids nar­row down who qual­i­fies as a grown-up they can tell about guns; they sang the song and danced with Ed­die Ea­gle.

Free gun locks were handed out to par­ents as well, courtesy of the Goodyear Po­lice De­part­ment.

Espinoza said he thought the event was “phe­nom­e­nal,” and he plans to work with other com­mu­ni­ties to put on more events like this in the fu­ture.

“I’ve been speak­ing to par­ents, and they are ex­tremely ex­cited about the pro­gram and, when ask­ing their chil­dren, they did learn some­thing,” Espinoza said. “Thanks to the NRA and ev­ery­one else that part­nered up, it was a very suc­cess­ful event.”

Irene Her­nan­dez said this was the first gun safety event she’d brought her kids to, de­spite hav­ing guns in the house. Her kids are 5, 7 and 8, and she said she was ex­cited to find a way to teach them about gun safety in a way they would un­der­stand.

“It was re­ally good,” Her­nan­dez said. “If I had known this pro­gram ex­isted, I would have got­ten in­volved with it years ago.”

Ch­eryl and Dan Todd, the own­ers of Pot of Gold Es­tate, said this is not the first Ed­die Ea­gle pro­gram they’ve hosted, and they stressed the im­por­tance of teach­ing gun safety to all kids.

“Whether you have a pool in your back­yard or not, you teach your kids to swim,” Ch­eryl Todd said. “Whether you have a firearm in your home or not, why not em­power our youth with knowl­edge and ed­u­ca­tion on how to stay safe?”

Todd said gun safety and the NRA in gen­eral have be­come very politi­cized, but she doesn’t want that to de­ter any­one from the Ed­die Ea­gle pro­gram.

“A lot of peo­ple see the NRA and as­sume the pro­gram is just de­signed to get kids in­ter­ested in guns, but it’s the ex­act op­po­site — it’s telling them to stay away,” Todd said. “It’s all about safety, there’s no po­lit­i­cal agenda.”

Dan Todd said this was the big­gest gun safety event Pot of Gold Es­tate has hosted, and he is ex­cited to see the com­mu­nity re­spond­ing to such an im­por­tant is­sue.

“We had an event like this about a year ago, but the turnout was much bet­ter this time,” he said. “With the crowd we saw, who knows how many lives we saved to­day?”

ALEXIS EGELAND/THE REPUB­LIC

Kids and lo­cal law en­force­ment dance with Ed­die Ea­gle while learn­ing about gun safety.

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