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Home | News

May 10, 2000

NRA counters mom march with new ads

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — With thousands of mothers set to rally against guns, the National Rifle Association has opened an ad campaign that portrays its members as mainstream Americans who want to bring gun safety lessons to the nation's classrooms.

In a television and newspaper ads running across the country this week, the NRA dismisses policy disagreements as “gun politics” and says it will spend $1 million to educate children about gun safety. It asks viewers to match it.

“Every kid in every school deserves gun safety education. And together, we can make that happen,” NRA activist and actress Susan Howard says in the ad.

Playing off Sunday's Million Mom March for gun control, Howard points to $1 million contribution: “That's a million NRA moms, challenging a million more moms just like you to put up just a dollar each.”

The money is aimed at bringing the NRA's Eddie Eagle gun safety program, or its equivalent, to every American school, suggesting that both sides of the charged debate could agree on that much.

In fact, gun control groups compare Eddie Eagle to Joe Camel, saying the program is really meant to entice kids and develop future gun buyers.

“Eddie Eagle is a gun industry salesman masquerading as a gun safety mascot,” said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a gun control group that issued a study of the program in 1997.

Sugarmann said the program was fundamentally flawed because it is funded by gun manufacturers and because it does not talk about the dangers of guns, only telling kids to stay away from them and tell an adult if they see one.

“Eddie Eagle never says guns can kill,” Sugarmann said Tuesday. “You have to warn of the risk to have an effective safety message.”

An NRA spokesman, Jim Manown, said the program is appropriate for elementary school-aged children and said many people contribute to the foundation that funds the program, not just gun makers.

Manown said he didn't know how much had been raised for the group's gun safety program since the campaign began Sunday. He also wouldn't say how much money the group was spending to air the TV spots.

Also Tuesday, a bill to require the licensing of most gun buyers was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. It would cover buyers of handguns and some semiautomatic weapons and would mandate that records for sales of each be kept.
“The time has come to say enough is enough and demand of Congress the passage of common sense gun laws,” said Feinstein.

New gun laws, including tighter sales and mandated child safety locks, have been stalled in Congress for months.

Meanwhile, the issue has been thrust to the top of the presidential election debate in recent days as presumptive nominees Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush trade barbs on the topic.

And at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the nation's public housing developments, guns have almost become a full-time diversion.

On Tuesday, Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo called a news conference to display hundreds of guns that have been turned in to police as part of a HUD-sponsored gun buyback program in 43 cities.

A day earlier, Cuomo called on Bush to clarify whether he would pursue new laws to protect gun makers from liability lawsuits if he became president.

The administration also is counting on this weekend's planned Million Mom March organized by Donna Dees-Thomases of New Jersey to generate new political pressure on behalf of its gun control measures.

The march, however, has drawn some critics.

“The justification for the level of coverage spawned by this event exists only in the hype-generated universe created by people with a direct interest in raising the red herring of gun control as a solution to youth violence,” said Rep. Robert Barr, R-Ga. “The message the media is sending is subtle but effective: Supporting gun-control is a maternal duty, and women who oppose it are unworthy of the responsibility of motherhood.”

All content copyright 1995-2000, AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News and


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