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Franklin school district may ditch NRA gun safety program after parents express concerns

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 11/2/2018 Elaina Sauber
a close up of text on a white background: Parents say this flyer was distributed to elementary school children at Moore Elementary, in the Franklin Special School District. © Submitted Parents say this flyer was distributed to elementary school children at Moore Elementary, in the Franklin Special School District.

Gun safety literature created by the National Rifle Association caused a stir on social media this week after some parents in Franklin learned their children had been sent home with flyers penned by the organization.

A flyer given to students at Moore Elementary, in the Franklin Special School District, says "talking to your children about what to do when encountering a firearm is critical." 

The flyer says roughly 40 percent of households in the U.S. have firearms, and that unintentional firearm fatalities are down 65 percent over the last 20 years. 

The flyer is part of the NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe program, which is designed to teach children in pre-K through fourth grade about what to do if they encounter a gun in unsupervised situations. 

The lesson: Stop, don't touch, run away, tell a grown-up. 

"The NRA as an organization has an agenda, even if that's not included in the actual content they teach children," said parent Elizabeth Madeira, whose kindergartner brought home one of the flyers from school. 

"I'd just be concerned with the motive behind the NRA and distributing their information to schools," she said. 

The NRA said the Eddie Eagle program doesn't promote firearm ownership or use.

Madeira said she was pleased with the school's quick response to concerns. 

"I’m really impressed with how quickly they responded. They plan to change the curriculum for the future," Madeira said. 

Franklin Special School District Superintendent David Snowden issued a statement about the program on Friday. 

"We completely support our schools teaching students to stop and tell an adult if they come across a gun," Snowden said.

"At the same time, we also understand that some members of the community distrust the organization that one of our schools used to convey the gun safety message using age appropriate resources," he said, adding that the school will look for other resources in the future to teach about gun safety. 

a close up of text on a white background: Moore Elementary School Principal Lisa Burgin sent parents this letter on Friday in response to concerns over gun safety literature penned by the National Rifle Association that was given to students. © Franklin Special School District Moore Elementary School Principal Lisa Burgin sent parents this letter on Friday in response to concerns over gun safety literature penned by the National Rifle Association that was given to students.

Moore Elementary Principal Lisa Burgin sent parents a letter on Friday addressing the flyer. She said guidance counselors teach the gun safety program. 

"As a public school, we do not advocate for or against gun ownership. Just as we teach children the life-saving skills of how to respond to an intruder, or what to do in the event of a fire, our only objective in teaching the gun safety lesson is to let them know what to do in the event they come across one in their home or the homes they may visit," the letter says. 

Burgin said Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense is hosting a presentation next month for Moore Elementary parents on how to prevent child access to guns and reduce the rate of unintentional child shootings. 

The Safe Tennessee Project, an organization that works to address gun violence in the state, said in a release Friday that the Eddie Eagle program puts the onus on children not to pick up any unsupervised guns they find, instead of emphasizing to adults the importance of responsible gun storage. 

Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for the organization, pointed to a study released earlier this year in the medical journal Health Promotion Practice that analyzed gun safety educational strategies in children. 

The study concluded that gun safety programs "do not improve the likelihood that children will not handle firearms in an unsupervised situation." 

NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter said in a statement Friday evening that the organization is proud of its Eddie Eagle program. 

"Extremist gun control groups are trying to claim that education doesn’t matter? That’s ridiculous," Hunter said. "The NRA educates its members to choose the safety precautions that work best for each gun owner and gun-owning family.”

Reach Elaina Sauber at esauber@tennessean.com, 615-571-1172 or follow @ElainaSauber on Twitter.

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