For Release: Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Kentucky Site of 2013 Shooting Where 5-Year-Old Unintentionally Killed his 2-Year Old Sister with His Own Gun
Washington, DC — The gun industry’s latest marketing push, targeting children as young as grade school age, will be on full display this weekend at the firearms industry trade show that accompanies the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting beginning this Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.
The lethal risks of encouraging children to handle and even own guns was starkly illustrated in Kentucky in 2013, when a two-year-old Kentucky girl was unintentionally shot and killed by her five-year-old brother with a 22 caliber rifle he had received as a birthday gift. The gun, a Crickett rifle manufactured by Keystone Sporting Arms, the self-proclaimed “leading rifle supplier in the youth market,” is one of a wide range of firearm models marketed for children.
As detailed in the February 2016 Violence Policy Center study “Start Them Young”–How the Firearms Industry and Gun Lobby Are Targeting Your Children (http://www.vpc.org/publications/start-them-young/), with the industry’s customer base growing older, household gun ownership in America has steadily declined. As its primary market of white males ages, the firearms industry and NRA have set their sights on America’s children as an integral part of their future customer base. Much like the tobacco industry’s search for replacement smokers, the gun industry and NRA are desperately seeking replacement shooters. In addition to the hoped-for financial benefits of marketing guns to youth, a corollary goal is to ensure the maintenance of a base of pro-gun advocates for future political battles.
VPC Executive Director and study author Josh Sugarmann states: “Imagine the public outcry if the alcohol or tobacco industries introduced and promoted child-friendly versions of their adult products. Yet the firearms industry and gun lobby are doing all of these things and more in their aggressive efforts to market guns to children.”
“Start Them Young” includes numerous examples of how the firearms industry and gun lobby are targeting children, including:
o The promotion of 22 caliber assault rifles that often incorporate plastic in their design (leading to less recoil and lighter weight). The result, according to Shooting Sports Retailer, is guns that “bring the coolness and fun of the tactical rifle to kids and less serious shooters.”
o Marketing guns in child-friendly colors, including: pink rifles and pistols intended for girls and women from a wide range of manufacturers; Smith & Wesson 22 caliber AR-15 style assault rifles in Pink Platinum, Purple Platinum, and Harvest Moon Orange; and, youth rifles from Savage Arms that come in crayon-box colors that include red, yellow, orange, and blue.
o Encouraging parents to let their children access guns at the earliest possible age. In an article on the NRA Family website lauding the Thompson/Center HotShot rifle, “a tiny gun intended for the very youngest shooters,” a company spokesman explained, “We’re targeting the six- to 12-year-old range.”
o Promotion of 3-Gun competition, a “’reality’ video game” that, according to one pro-gun website, is “as close to a real-life first person shooter video game as you’ll get without joining the military.”
And while the NRA and gun industry promote firearms for children, the gun industry has for the most part failed to implement the type of proven mechanical safety devices — such as magazine disconnects, positive safeties, load indicators, drop-safety test requirements, and minimum trigger pulls — that would prevent many of the now all-too-common unintentional deaths involving children. And because firearms are the only consumer product sold in the United States not regulated by a federal agency for health and safety, the gun industry cannot be forced to add these simple, low-tech safety features.
Recent unintentional shootings in Louisville involving children include a February 2016 incident in which a mother was unintentionally shot by her two-year-old son after he found a loaded 9mm handgun in her bedside table and a March 2015 incident in which a four-year-old girl died after she grabbed a handgun and dropped it, resulting in the weapon firing and fatally wounding the child.
For an online version of “Start Them Young,” see http://www.vpc.org/publications/start-them-young/.
For a PDF version of “Start Them Young,” see http://www.vpc.org/studies/startthemyoung.pdf/.
For the companion video to “Start Them Young,” see https://youtu.be/rjKXGN7hYcg.