Monday, February 11, 2013

Gun Marketing Direct to Your Kids

In the last five years, gun manufacturers have begun an aggressive campaign to put guns in the hands of kids. The New York Times has published an investigative article on this effort, available now at:
You may not know that, according to the NYT article by Mike McIntire, "The shooting sports foundation, the tax-exempt trade association for the gun industry, is a driving force behind many of the newest youth initiatives. Its national headquarters is in Newtown, just a few miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza, 20, used his mother's Bushmaster AR-15 to kill 20 children and 6 adults last month." We cannot know if there is any relationship but it is rather a coincidence at least.
The industry has developed a number of studies about how to get more kids into the funnel to want to use guns and to eventually buy them as soon as they can, once they are 18. Meanwhile, many states allow kids to use guns as long as they are supervised by an adult. The initiatives include encouraging children to take up guns for recreational hunting and target shooting. Grants to various youth organizations are taking the form of supplying guns and emphasizing the "responsibility" which handling a gun teaches.
Another initiative is a video game using semi-automatic weapons, which game also happens to include links to gun manufacturers. The gun industry asserts that it is important to maintain the American tradition of hunting, marksmanship, and self-defense with guns.
The marketing effort resulted from the gun industry's awareness that sales were falling off in the last few decades.The effort to appeal  to youth includes starting very young kids with the idea of shooting, with darts, bow and arrow, or BBs. The literature suggests not using human forms as targets since this may seem violent, but rather words, like "family" or "fun."
I found this article very disturbing. In some cultures, in the country, where hunting is really still part of the culture, I don't have a problem with parents teaching tier children to hunt with a rifle after reaching a certain age of maturity, say 14 or later. But the need for semi-automatics for young people seems bogus, and there is no excuse for starting four or five year olds or even eight year olds shooting with life-threatening guns. The gun literature actually speaks of using guns as a way to teach maturity and responsibility. There are much safer ways to learn these life skills.
Another tenet is that parents are the best judges of when their children are ready to handle guns. We don't leave it up to parents to decide about when their kids can handle alcohol, cigarettes, or military duties, or when they can operate a motor vehicle, or even when they need to start school. Why would we leave it up to parents to decide when their child can handle a life-threatening weapon which can kill more people in a minute than even an out-of-control car ever could? 
According to the NYT article, entitled, "Selling a New Generation on Guns," "The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 - an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one - the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent."
As I am writing this in the late afternoon Thursday, there is news of a school shooting in Atlanta today in which a 14 year old girl was shot in the head and is now hospitalized while a teacher was also injured. The suspect in custody is believed to be a fellow student. 
Children are children because they have much to learn to take their place in human society. Full maturity is believed to be reached around age 25. A full understanding of the meaning of life and death can hardly be expected of a child of 8, 10, or 12. Putting weapons that are equivalent to those issued to trained soldiers for war operations in combat zones into the hands of our children is to be discouraged and avoided. 
Randy Rolfe Take Home Tips: As parents it is more important than ever that we supervise our children's environment. Digital information has made it possible to expose kids to almost any message if there is not a caring adult screening the input. Use parental controls, hang out with your kids when they are playing video games or surfing the web, or even watching TV, since web-based input is available there now too.  Remove digital devices from bedrooms, and limit daily exposure. Take the kids outside to play, and continue supervision there. lAnd talk, talk, talk about every issue that comes up. Even if you think they are not listening, they will hear you, and your words may play in their ear months or years later when it may make the most difference. 

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