Unintentional firearm injuries threaten the safety of children in the United States. Despite the occurrence of these injuries, few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of child-based programs designed to teach children gun-safety skills. This study compared 2 programs that were designed to reduce gun play in preschool children.
A between-groups no-treatment control design was used. Children were randomly assigned to either 1 of 2 firearm-injury prevention programs or a no-treatment control condition. Participant recruitment, training, and data collection occurred in preschools and children’s homes located in a midwestern city with a population of approximately 80,000. Thirty-one 4- and 5-year-old children participated in the study. The effectiveness of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program and a behavioral skills training program using instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback was evaluated. Children were issued 0 to 3 ratings on the basis of their ability to say correctly the safety message and similar ratings on the basis of observations of their ability to perform correctly the skills in the classroom and when placed in a realistic simulation.
Both programs were effective for teaching children to reproduce verbally the gun-safety message. The behavioral skills training program but not the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program was effective for teaching children to perform gun-safety skills during a supervised role play, but the skills were not used when the children were assessed via real-life (in situ) assessments.
Existing programs are insufficient for teaching gun-safety skills to children. Programs that use active learning strategies (modeling, rehearsal, and feedback) are more effective for teaching gun-safety skills as assessed by supervised role plays but still failed to teach the children to use the skills outside the context of the training session. More research is needed to determine the most effective way to promote the use of the skills outside the training session.