Castle Rock children learn to keep hands off guns

El Paso deputy, NRA mascot team up for safety

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The elementary students at Academy Charter School got a lesson on gun safety from a mascot whose first and last rule is that guns are taboo for young children.

Eddie Eagle came to the school on Feb. 21, courtesy of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the closest agency with the National Rifle Association-sponsored gun safety program.

The Eddie Eagle gun safety program is geared toward children from kindergarten through third grade, making it the program of choice for charter school parent Brandon Lee.

A trip to a shooting competition made him realize the time was ripe to start the conversation.

“I decided it was time to learn about (gun safety) and thought it was time to teach my kids,” Lee said. “At that shoot I didn’t feel I knew enough. I think it’s important because I want to give (my kids) the opportunity to protect themselves when they’re not with me. I can’t protect them when they’re not with me.”

The Eddie Eagle program is built on the premise that children should not be around firearms without adult supervision, said Deputy Kimble Gingrich, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Gingrich is a school resource officer who conducts the Eddie Eagle presentations, with a twist on the fire department’s “stop, drop and roll” message.

“We teach the kids, if they come across a firearm in any situation, to stop, don’t touch, leave the area and tell an adult,” Gingrich said. “We keep it on the simplest level. The program is designed not to scare them but to put this simple message into their memory.”

Gingrich modified the weeklong program into a one-hour presentation for the charter school’s kindergarten through fourth-grade students. A handful of parents opted to hold their children out of the program, but Principal Yvette Brown was impressed with the repetitive message that touched on every type of firearm, including air pistols, toy guns and other explosive devices.

Students were taught to back away from any suspicious device they encountered in a public or private environment, refrain from touching the device and find a trusted adult. Among the forbidden objects – an abandoned bottle of “water.” Soda bottle bombs are often left in public areas and can detonate with the slightest movement.

“(Gingrich) made it clear that if you see anything and you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it,” Brown said. “I think if we can tell them just don’t touch it we can really save some lives. We may not have guns in our household, but if they go to a household with guns that may not be locked up and they are curious and they pick it up, we just don’t want a tragedy to happen with that incident. I do think there are kids that don’t have (guns) in their lives whatsoever and may think they’re a fun thing to look at — I think there is a natural curiosity to it.”

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