How the American Gun Industry Insidiously Targets Children
To the American gun industry, young people today are irritatingly intelligent. Given the fact that children find themselves living in a society awash with violent video games and gory television shows, one would assume that they would be enthusiastic about owning their own firearm and hunting prey.
This, however, is not the case. A study of children ages 8 to 17 done by the gun industry itself found that, much to their dismay, hunting is actually considered an unfavorable pastime among the majority of America’s youth. Nearly 50% of the young participants in the nationwide survey said they had “strongly to moderately” negative opinions about hunting and target shooting.
This is simply unacceptable for the firearms industry, which considers children to be a portion of the population with huge profit-making potential, and so they have positioned the American youth directly in their marketing crosshairs.
One significant way they have made an effort to increase youth participation in gun-related activities is by fighting to lower age restrictions on hunting in specific states.
Very few states have meaningful restrictions for children when it comes to hunting and using firearms. New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia, and Iowa for example, have no age limits regarding those who hunt during open season, as long as they are accompanied by a licensed adult.
Some states require children to complete safety courses before being able to handle firearms and participate in hunting, but there are loopholes around this. In Oklahoma, for example, youths under the age of 16 must complete a hunter-education class in order to hunt big game alone, but anyone is allowed to hunt small game even without taking a course.
Luckily for the gun industry, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington set no minimum age for children hunting alone, so these states were not subject to the intense campaigns by pro-gun advocates to reduce the hunting age.
For many states, the hunting age requirement has been a touchy and much debated topic.
For example, in 2009 Wisconsin lawmakers voted to lower the accepted age for hunting with a licensed hunter from 12 to 10. State Senator Jim Holperin (D) told FoxNews the purpose of the bill was to, “expose young people to the sport early in a meaningful way and to get their commitment to hunting, fishing and trapping that will hopefully last a lifetime” and later in the interview, referenced how hunting in the state is a $1.4 billion-a-year industry.
Perhaps the senator was not aware of, or chose to disregard, the reports compiled by Common Sense About Kids & Guns, a non-profit dedicated to preventing gun violence, that showed in 2005 there were 56-firearm related deaths of children and teens in the state of Wisconsin.
More recently, as of February 2013, lawmakers in Montana argued over Senate Bill 197, which would allow 9-year-olds to be able to hunt under the supervision of an adult mentor. The bill, proposed by Senator Scott Boulanger (R.), was created with the intent of getting children interested in the “sport of hunting” at a young age in hopes that they would stick with it as they grow older.
An article in Billings Gazette hypothesizes that the real reason behind this bill and others targeting young children is, “Hunter numbers continue to decline nationally. More older people hunt than younger ones. Not enough younger hunters are being recruited to replace the older hunters who drop out.”
The gun industry is painfully aware of this fact. In 2008, the National Shooting Sports Foundation launched a project called “Task Force 20/20.” Consisting of 26 different manufacturing groups, state and federal agencies, hunting organizations and gun retailers, the goal of the project has been to “increase hunting participation by 20% in the next five years.” Unsurprisingly, the project specifically targets young people and considers their interest and participation to be the key to the success and longevity of the industry.
It does not come as a shock, then, to find that during the same year as the “Task Force” was put into motion, the National Rifle Association quickly announced the creation of an online magazine for children called NRAInSights.com. The site features everything a budding hunter ought to know, according to the NRA, including a section called “Product News” which is regularly updated with “cool new gear and accessories” for hunters.
The gun industry works hard at promoting certain brands and products specifically made for children as a way to ensure loyalty towards the industry and increase profits.
One business, Keystone Sporting Arms, has created a rifle specifically designed for children called the Crickett. With the slogan, “My First Rifle,” the Crickett has been a popular choice among young hunters and their parents. One testimonial on the Crickett’s website praised the company for making a pink-colored rifle for girls, as it helped his previously wary 6-year-old daughter come to be interested in guns saying, “ because as scary as it sounds the color really helped get her excitet (sic) about it.”
One could argue that this is a perfect example of how the gun industry attempts to break down children’s inherent wariness towards firearms by marketing them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to the young mind.
Miniaturizing and candy-coloring guns, however, does not make them any less deadly -- a truth that became tragically realized in April when 5-year-old Kristian Sparks accidentally fatally shot his little sister in Burkesville, Kentucky, while playing with the Crickett rifle his parents had purchased for him.
Individual states have been just as encouraging when it comes to putting guns in young people’s hands. Many towns and counties across America hold competitions and events specifically dedicated to helping kids hunt.
New York State, for example, loosened its gun control laws in 1991 and lowered the legal supervised hunting age to 12. The Holley Fire Department in Upstate New York took advantage of this ruling in 2005 when they organized their first “Squirrel Slam” fundraiser.
Every bit as morbid as it sounds, the event encourages children 12 and up to venture into the woods and kill as many squirrels as they can in hopes of receiving cash prizes for quantity or weight of the helpless animals they collect.
The barbaric event has taken place for the past seven years and has been diligently protested by those who believe that it is inherently cruel and inappropriate to encourage children to murder defenseless animals, using firearms, no less.
The organizers of the event, however, consistently argue that the children were killing in accordance with state hunting rules.
Let’s look further into what the New York Department of Environmental Conservation offers the state’s children: Last year, the department’s commissioner, Joe Martens, announced a holiday weekend of deer hunting for kids aged 14-15 as a “hallmark moment for New York hunters,” displaying the “efforts of DEC to engage more young people in nature and outdoor recreation."
Thus, the state of New York encouraged kids to stalk animals with loaded weapons, and billed it as an enjoyable activity to partake in on a long weekend from school.
The teens were armed with rifles, or bow-hunting equipment in Westchester County and parts of Albany and Monroe counties where rifles aren’t permitted, and allowed to wander in the woods with free reign. For smaller children (12-15), the department vaunted “special opportunities” to kill ducks, geese, pheasants, and wild turkeys as well, to make sure that no one got left behind.
This annual massacre is just one link in a giant chain of youth-targeted hunting events and competitions that crisscross the United States. “Youth Deer Hunting Weekend” in New Hampshire, “Youth Upland Bird Hunts” in Oregon, “Youth Spring Turkey Hunts” in Florida -- there is an extensive itinerary of youth–and-guns activities sponsored by local governments across the country.
Despite the statistics that show that young people in America are decidedly not interested in firearms, the gun industry continues to bully its way into their lives. To be sure, there are plenty of opponents who , have devoted their time and effort to pushing back the gun industry and voicing their opinions against allowing children to come into contact with deadly weapons.
However, they are fighting against a powerful and ruthless industry that spends millions of dollars every year lobbying its agenda in Washington D.C. The industry argues that they are preserving and passing down the rights that are imbued upon Americans by the Second Amendment. Their efforts, in fact, lead to the death or injury of thousands of Americans every year and assist in the unnecessary killings of millions of animals.
Kids today seem to sense this intuitively. Perhaps the American gun industry should stop scheming new ways to change young people’s minds and instead come to the realization that they represent an unnecessary, dangerous and outdated hobby that children find increasingly unappealing.