"A .22 For Christmas"
How the Gun Industry Designs and Markets Firearms for Children and Youth
The gun industry has struggled with stagnant or shrinking sales for several years due to the saturation of its primary market of white males. According to the General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, the percentage of gun-owning homes dropped nearly 20 percent from 1977 to 1996.1
While the gun industry's primary market has already been tapped, a variety of demographic and cultural changes have made it difficult for the industry to find new customers. Hunting has traditionally been the means by which fathers have brought their children into the gun culture, but by 1996 Paul Januzzo, vice president of handgun manufacturer Glock, told the Financial Times, "grandpa or dad isn't taking the kid out into the field to teach him how to shoot anymore."2
Another challenge for the industry has been the decline of universal military service. The Police Foundation study Guns in America explains, "Almost everyone who currently owns a gun had some experience with guns as a youth, either in military service or (more commonly) from growing up with guns in the home."3
Finally, a wide range of alternative recreational activities are available to young people today, from video games to organized youth sports leagues. An advertisement for New England Firearms summed up the challenge facing the industry: "In effect, [the] greatest threat we face is the lack of a future customer base for the products which we all sell."4
To meet this challenge the gun industry�working hand-in-hand with the National Rifle Association (NRA)�has targeted children as vital to the future of the gun culture in America, both as future customers and as political foot soldiers for the gun-control battles that lie ahead.a5 As explained in the August 2001 issue of Handguns magazine, "The other topic that springs to mind among shooters and Second Amendment activists in regards to children and guns is that they are our salvation in the fight for liberty and the preservation of the shooting sports."6
The latest assault in the gun industry's battle for the "hearts and minds"b of America's youth is the design of an increasing number of smaller, lighter versions of their firearms which are marketed as youth models.
Advertisement, Henry Repeating Arms Company, Shooting Sports Retailer, September-October 2001, p. 13.
a) The gun industry has launched a campaign to attract children to the gun culture on several fronts�
b) At the NRA's 1996 Annual Meeting, then-President Marion Hammer outlined the NRA's agenda to "invest" in America's youth saying, "It will be an old-fashioned wrestling match for the hearts and minds of our children, and we'd better engage our adversaries with no holds barred....If we do not successfully reach out to the next generation, then the freedom and liberty that we've lived for�and that many of our ancestors have died for�will not live beyond us."
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All contents � 2001 Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.