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NRA Outrageously Pushes Assault Rifles on Young Teens and Grade Schoolers

There are scary consequences to thinking of kids as a ripe gun market.
 
 
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If you go to the “clubs” page on the JuniorShooters.net Web site, the first thing you’ll see is a striking young woman with sandy blonde hair, bright blue eyes, manicured nails and a fashionable jacket peering through the scope of a futuristic-looking Anschutz 8002 air rifle, costing $2,500. She easily could be the envy of other young teens.  

That is exactly the hope of America’s gun manufacturers, which have underwritten a litany of youth shooting initiatives across the country in recent years to entice a new generation of gun buyers by turning to the strongest forces in teenage lives—peer pressure and a desire to act like a grownup.

But the sleek descendants of old-fashioned, single-shot rifles are not the only weapons being put into young hands to cultivate America’s next generation of gun users and buyers. On Junior Shooters' “Cool Stuff” page are videos, starting with one of another pony-tailed girl hoisting and firing a military-style rifle from the back of a moving pickup truck in an early stage of a firearms obstacle-course contest.

“You got a lot of gun there for a little girl,” an unseen person next to the cameraman blurts out as the truck speeds away. “Ah—yup,” replies a voice.

The girl is seen breaking down doors, shooting at moving targets with handguns and rifles, pulling two guns from holsters on her legs, and jumping from a tower and firing away as she rides a cable and sling carrying her for 50 yards. As she finishes the gauntlet, a small crowd of middle-aged men clap and cheer.

These vistas are windows into a frontline in America’s gun culture that is not before Congress—even as it begins its debate on banning the military-style weapons used in the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six adults. In Congress, one hears the gun lobby’s same talking points that have killed or watered down bills for decades. But inside America’s gun culture, where manufacturers know that young people’s interest in guns is waning (as confirmed by their polling), new and eyebrow-raising efforts are being made to market guns to young teens and children.

“In a saturated market of durable goods, how do you get more buyers?” asked Joan Burbick, author of Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy, stating the industry’s quandry. “This new emphasis, which really started around 2007, to go rather aggressively after young people, pre-18-year-olds, is something new. They have all these problems with their demographics going down, the popularity of sport shooting going down, so where is the next generation going to come from?”

The answer, of course, is to try to make shooting more attractive to young people. But what’s different today is the range of sophisticated weaponry being put in young hands. While the rhetoric of teaching "responsibility, citizenship, marksmanship" is akin to what pro-gun groups like the Boy Scouts espoused for decades, what’s gone mostly unnoticed outside of gun circles is that kids today are not being taught with their dad’s old .22 rifle. Indeed, the Newtown shooter used a mix of handguns and modern rifles, not very different from guns in the videos on JuniorShooters.net’s Cool Stuff page. 

“They are using children to introduce them to a range of weapons as a potential future customer,” said Burbick. “They really have operated as if they have no restraints in the domestic market.”

Beyond the Reach of Law

If you only listened to the National Rifle Association, you would think the gun world was among the most heavily regulated industries. But the opposite is true. Gun makers have not been regulated by any federal agency, consumer or law enforcement, for decades.