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 Abby, aged 8, from Louisiana, photographed by   An-Sofie Kesteleyn for her series My Little Rifle

The Land of Hope and Glory is, for all intents and purposes, a “gun-free” zone. Yes, British subjects can own a shotgun – provided they jump over more hurdles than a steeplechase horse and suffer through the bureaucratic equivalent of a proctological examination. And of course, the police have plenty of guns. But to say the British press is anti-gun is like saying Miley Cyrus doesn’t mind taking her clothes off for publicity (these days). The Guardian newspaper‘s article – Armed to the milk teeth: America’s gun-toting kids – proves the point. And how . . .

In May last year, a two-year-old girl was shot dead by her five-year-old brother with a small rifle made specifically for children. The accidental shooting happened in Cumberland County, Kentucky, when the boy was playing with a gun purchased from a company in Pennsylvania called Keystone Sporting Arms, which, in 2008, produced around 80,000 rifles for children. The guns, which sell under the model names Cricket and Chipmunk, were originally advertised on a “Kid’s Corner” on the company’s website (it has since been removed), which showed children firing them at rifle ranges and on hunting trips. The guns are produced in bright blue, pink and rainbow colours and marketed like toys, under the tag line “My First Rifle”.

Context much? Nope. Let me help.

For the year 2010, the Center for Disease Control pegged the number of “unintentional firearms deaths” for children ages 1 through 14 at 62 (out of a population of 57,283,060). Tragic, yes. But again, context. The same CDC reports that 3,107 children under the age of 15 die from accidental drowning each year.

Anyway, it’s not about numbers for the Guardian, who say nothing of the millions of children in America who own or shoot guns who manage to reach adulthood without shooting themselves or others. [Click here to view TTAG’s Facebook photo gallery of kids with guns.] It’s all about the anecdote. Or, if you prefer, a condescending “freak show.”

When the photographer An-Sofie Kesteleyn read about the story in De Volkskrant, the Dutch newspaper she works for, she began making plans for a trip to the American south. “I wanted to go and search for these families who bought guns as presents for their young children,” she says. “I began by visiting a rifle range in Ohio, where children are taught to shoot, then travelled down through Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana. What I found was that there are loads of children out there in America with their own guns, but not that many parents who are happy to have their kids’ portraits taken with those guns.”

Because they know how anti-gunners roll. Anyway, An-Sofie Kesteleyn “convinced” some [gullible] parents to let her do the Diane Arbus thing. And fulfilled the expectations of the parents who declined her kind offer to exploit their children for her brilliant career.

“I went to gun shops and shooting ranges just talking to people,” Kesteleyn explains. “What I came away with was the sense that there was a lot of fear and paranoia among the adults, and that fear was handed down to the children along with the guns. The children have childlike imaginations and the usual childhood fears – zombies, monsters and wild beasts. They are not born with these adult fears; they are infected with them.”

Infectious, but nice!

On her journey, Kesteleyn encountered “mostly ordinary families who loved their kids and trained them to use the guns safely and responsibly”. Nevertheless, she remained bemused and disturbed. “The adults talked about protection all the time. They believe that you have to have guns to protect yourself from the other bad people out there with guns who want to do you harm.”

As opposed to the bad people with cameras and newspapers who want to do you harm.

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  1. actually, I’m teaching my children how to handle weapons in anticipation of the Zombie Apocalypse.

    • “Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse” – Fixed that for you 😉

      If brain-dead progressives qualify, we are already there.

      • Of course it is “inevitable”! Everybody eventually dies, their numbers are growing constantly. How much longer can it be until they come for us?

  2. I feel sorry for the British people who don’t believe in the nanny state. There’s not much hope for political change over there until the country drowns in its own debt.

      • All the recreational drug users think that about most countries. It really is silly when you think about it. “Don’t do drugs! Don’t shoot! Don’t do dangerous things! Don’t have fun!”.

        Also; Steve Hughes is still performing? Nice, always liked him.

  3. The little lass is showing better trigger awareness than all of the kids in the anti-gun posters from that other group.

  4. A bit of a freudian slip?

    “The adults talked about protection all the time. They believe that you have to have guns to protect yourself from the _OTHER_ bad people out there with guns who want to do you harm.”

    Note, not “the bad people,” it’s “the other bad people.”

  5. Rossi Youth matched pair in .22/.410. Started both boys out on that. Irons-only, break-open, one shot at a time; even working up finger strength as they struggled (at first) to cock that beastly hammer on that thing.

    Sigh. Lost in a tragic canoeing accident like everything else.

    • Ha My first gun was a Rossi .22 pump. It had a screw on the side that you unscrew to take it apart. The only thing I didn’t like about it, was that it was top eject so you couldn’t put a scope on it.

  6. As soon as my wife and I learned we would be having a girl, I immediately went to my lgs and bought her a pink cricket.

    • In some states the mom would have then been arrested for not properly locking up her gun.

      Justice served, eh? 😉

    • But….but…think of the children!!!! Oh wait…

      The Guardian’s figures are tanking, and they are trying to break into the US market. The easiest way to do this is to just hop on the sadly ever popular anti-gun bandwagon. Biggest bang (pun intended) for their lack of buck.

        • Ah, but that’s just because Piers wasn’t condescendingly rude *enough* and was too kind and tolerant to those poor, benighted colonials… or something like that.

          Remember, this is the Guardian, which ardently believes that true socialism *will* come Any Day Now, if only all the faithful believe really, really hard…

          In terms of UK media, the Guardian – iimpeccably, immaculately “liberal” by US definition – is guaranteed to always choke on its organically-grown free-range muesli at the very sound of the word ‘gun’, while the rather better-selling Telegraph (rather more conservative) has been firmly reporting on successful household defences (including ones where the intruders were shot, the homeowner was cleared of all charges and the surviiving intruders were told to ‘go and do one’ when trying to claim compensation) and even picked up on UKIP (a recent entry to the political scene, soon to be seen whether a force to be reckoned with or a flash in the pan) proposing to repeal the handgun ban in positive terms.

          Seriously, though, don’t mistake the pampered princesses of Guardian Towers for mainstream UK opinion, any more than the New York Times speaks for every single American (or even a clear majority of them). Some of us look at families teaching their children to enjoy firearms in a safe, responsible manner and merely think ‘Well done, wish I could do that for my son’. (The handicaps are much more to do with serious overcrowding, even when we had laxer laws; what passes for countryside in most of the south of the UK, would be considered suburbia in the US. There’s a significant lack of safe space to go shooting in, one reason firearms rights don’t get much traction here)

    • This is a GREAT story and I wish I could show it to my girls unfortunately it would be hard for me to continue to disarm them. They often argue with me about why other kids can keep their guns displaying them proudly and ready to defend their homes and they can’t. My 11 year old just saved enough to buy and M&P 15-22 on her own with a beautiful Leopold scope however it sits in the safe, not because I don’t trust her but rather because I fear the liberals and news spinning things out of control if for some reason someone had the “need” to peak in my home and I just can’t afford the lawyers I think I would need to fight a “child endangerment” charge.

      Still though fantastic video!

      • Buy her one of those cheap stack on gun lockers of her own, give her a key, and keep a key handy yourself. That way she has somewhat quick access to her rifle if needed, but you’re still imparting a sense of safety and respect for firearms.

        • That is an interesting approach and I actually have a stack on collecting dust in the garage. I am curious to others thoughts on this idea and I would have to google laws for an 11 year old having access to a rifle but again if anyone else can chime in here it would be appreciated.

      • Someone “peeping” into my home would be placed under arrest after they healed sufficiently and were discharged from the hospital. AND you can always play the Sexual Offender card. Bye-bye, liberal. See you in 20 years.

      • If you are shaping your life around ‘what the neighbors think’, you’ve already given up your Rights.

        Take. Them. Back.

      • I don’t know where you are but wherever it is I’m sorry that you even have to think about the law in relation to allowing your children access to guns. Here in Ohio we have no laws regarding access to firearms inside the home based on age. I received my first personal weapon when I was 8 and was always allowed to store it and it’s ammunition in my room.

        If you’re able to trust your 11 yo then by all means, verify that it wont make you a felon and allow access. It might save their life.

    • That little girl has had her empowerment moment and I’m proud of her, but there are tears in my eyes to think that she ever had to have such a moment.

      When are we going to get serious about the scum who commit these crimes?

  7. It never ceases to amaze me how the antis find the worst looking people to take pictures of when they write an article about our side.

    Nice girl, I’m sure, but her parents should be ashamed of themselves for letting her become overweight.

    • When I was a kid it was called common sense and personal responsibility (“You don’t have to eat the cake, Jimmy!”).

      In all seriousness, all kids are a bit fat in a phase. They sorta grow out of it (provided they eat normal food and not fast food).

        • Like I said, don’t eat fast food weekly and actually move around. Not too hard, seen people with worse habits (like licking your finger before turning the page).

      • A bit sentence structure fail but other than that you can’t blame him for saying what most where thinking.

        • Most? Really? You speak for most of us?

          The shallowness of this very thought makes me want to puke. Into your mouth.

          That’s what at least some of US were thinking when we saw this thread.

        • Actually I too was thinking about how the antis always dredge up pics of mutant looking gun owners for their articles too. The smirk she has isn’t helping anything.

          I understand that children are (for some reason) sacred in Western culture, but if you divest yourself of your emotions, there is a difference between choosing to use the above pic for article in question or using a pic like:

          The pic I linked has a similar aged girl with the same exact gun. However, the second girl is not smirking, not posing, and doesn’t look like she could be a cousin of Honey Boo Boo.

          If you don’t admit the impact of the article would be different with the change of pic, you’re either hopelessly naive or lying to yourself.

        • No, I’m calling presumably grown men out to be the scumbag cowards they are for what is essentially picking on a little girl.

          If you are going to call ME out for something, get it right.

          I fail to understand how this topic of conversation helps our cause. The kid is a shooter, but no, we can’t celebrate that and encourage it. Rather we have to put her down and make fun of her because she does not fit some bull feces preconceived and egocentric definition of what should be acceptable in a picture.

          It’s at least a PR war we are in, and here’s the public face we are giving…commenting on a minor’s appearance. Nice.

        • Sensitive much, JR?

          I put down her parents. At her age, they are responsible for her and they have failed her greatly as far as her health is concerned.

          It also doesn’t help our cause that gullible people allow anti authors and photographers to use their children to perpetuate stereotypes.

        • I am not picking on anybody here, just stating my observations. If she is enjoying what she is doing then great. Also gotta agree with TheBear; don’t have (much) of a problem with her weight, though the pose does come a bit off putting. Might just be me though. Never been a fan of poses.

          I might be a bad person but I have my limits…I only pick on children 13 and up.

  8. Hm Keystone Sporting Arms. Been in there once. Interesting to see how the prices are like 70$ cheaper in PA than New Jersey.

  9. “The adults talked about protection all the time. They believe that you have to have guns to protect yourself from the other bad people out there with guns who want to do you harm.”
    ….And bad people with crowbars, steak knives, and multiple unarmed robbers, lone robbers/muggers/rapists who are bigger and stronger than victim, rabid animals, out-of-control government, and on and on.
    Oh what horrible people we are, those of us who are willing to assume part of the responsibility for our own safety. And then to pass it on to our children.

  10. My niece has progressed into an M&P 15/22 and a 22 revolver. She was never into the pink thing, she likes wood and blue, or black “army looking” guns. Good kid, good shooter too.

  11. I carry to protect myself, family, friends, passers by, etc… from a variety of animals who don’t respect human life. Whether they have a gun, machette, axe, bat, or are just a seething mob.
    And the fact that children used to be taught respect for firearms before the nannies took over is irrelevant, I guess. Schools used to have shooting teams/clubs. Corner stores had guns on the shelves. Sears had them in their mail-order. But I guess the guns just got more evil, not the people.

  12. I feel safer having guns around my kids by making them educated in their use. My dad used to lock up his guns and I knew exactly how to get at them. So some dumb kid (me) was handling his firearms while no adults were around because I was curious. Good thing I was too scared to ever try to load a round but I did have my first and only negligent discharge at 10 years old at my grandmother’s house due to an unsecured .22 rifle.

    You want kids to be safe around firearms, then teach them firearms safety. “Guns are bad!” is a great way to make kids curious and without the proper instruction it creates a potentially dangerous situation. Take the mystery and allure out of them and suddenly the kids lose interest.

    Best advice I ever got was from a friend. He said when he was a kid his dad took him out shooting and then made him clean the guns afterwards. Completely killed the mystique for him and helped put the context around firearms as a tool to be properly handled and maintained. I’ve used a similar approach with my kids and it has been great.

  13. We have the pink cricket and it has one annoying safety feature which is that with the bolt open you can QUICK and EASILY lock it. My daughter accidently engages it all the time when shooting from a bench and then I need to get out my key. So this kid gun has safety measures in place to prevent accidents, I hate blaming or looking down on people when a tragedy happens but leaving a bullet in the chamber, not engaging a safety, and a slew of other potentials falls on the parent. Kind of like leaving your 5 year old in a running car and they take off or leaving your 5 year old sitting on a raft in the pool while you do something real quick.

    Bottom line the cricket is a great kid gun and YES KIDS SHOULD HAVE GUNS and has enough safety measures in place where even a parent who is not a gun parent and doesn’t have a gun safe can get this for their kid and not have to worry about an accidental shooting.

    • Well, yeah, but I’m thinking a kid should not be shooting this without a parent around, normally, and that therefore you should need the key to lock it as well as unlock it. The idea that it can be locked accidentally does not seem like a positive attribute in any context.

  14. My dad and grandad were always very clear about guns in the house- If I ever wanted to look at one, hold one, etc, that was okay, as long as they were in the room. It was never a big deal, probably because they never made it one. If I wanted to go shoot, all I had to do was ask.
    And I can be totally honest when I say that I had a drivers license and a hunter safety card before I ever handled a gun completely on my own.

  15. I grew up shooting a BB gun at five and six; got a pellet gun from seven to ten and then a very proud day; at eleven my parents bought me a .22lr rifle that I got to keep in my closet and I could take it out any time to shoot it without asking permission.

    I was also driving our tractor hauling bins of apples five miles down the road during harvest season, at the same age. I was expected and I acted with adult level responsibility, which most kids can do if they are taught this at an early age.

  16. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the “Armed Citizen” from the current NRA mags, in which an 11-year-old girl in WA shot and killed a cougar to protect her 14-year-old brother. Some years back, I think it was an 11-year-old girl skeet shooter who shot and killed two home invaders with her shotgun, who attacked her in her home when she was alone. This is not rocket science, here, kids that age should not need to do such things, but neither should you or I. It does not mean they cannot. Remember, we say it all the time, a firearm is the great equalizer. Not just size or strength, but age as well.

  17. “The children have childlike imaginations and the usual childhood fears – zombies, monsters and wild beasts. They are not born with these adult fears; they are infected with them.”

    As opposed to rational adult fears like the fear of specific inanimate objects (guns) or objects with specific characteristic (wrong color, pistol grip, bayonet lug) that aren’t statistically more dangerous than common objects (clubs, hammers, etc)?

    I don’t feel these children are infected with fear. Rather, I believe they understand there is a cure to irrational fear.

    • To say nothing of the fear of home invasion. There are a good many latch key kids who could benefit from training with and access to a firearm.

  18. Doubtless, the parents who didn’t want their children’s photos taken pretty quickly figured out they were being stalked by a European twit seeking confirmation of her own prejudices. While the CDC is happy to aggregate “unintentional firearm deaths” for children, you’ll never see this organization speak of the unintentional firearm deaths prevented by teaching gun safety to kids at an early age. My dad made sure I knew about gun safety almost from the time I could walk. By the time I was 8 or so and big enough to hold a .22, I knew how to shoot and carry a loaded weapon. The logic of passing that knowledge on to children is completely lost on people who’ve never been around weapons and who think screwing in a light bulb is a mechanical skill.

  19. Gee, when I was a kid, this was what the Remington 580 was for. Just minus the clever marketing. As with others here grew up with a .22 that I bought with my own savings and the 20 ga Topper my uncles cut their teeth on, trigger locked in my own closet. Only bit of luck was that I worked my ass off washing cars and had enough money to buy an Anschutz 164 at our LGS. Still my favorite rifle of all time.

  20. I have two beautiful young daughters. The older was the first to ask for a pink gun when she was 8. she had a Rossie 410/.22 and wanted to upgrade. I don’t like Pink guns and they understood why. This is not a toy,a doll or a game piece. This is a tool that can kill you or your sister or mommy or me. We change our attitude when we shoot or even when we pick up a gun. Hey, when they grow up and want to have a pink gun which they can skillfully handle, they are welcome to become the next Kirsten Joy Weiss in pink cammo. But while they are developing their appreciation for the sport and understanding of gun safety, “Cutesy” is not part of the training.
    This is just my approach to teaching my kids – no disrespect for those who choose otherwise. Maybe we can get the little girl at the top and my daughters to school some Senators on proper gun handling. Good finger position.

  21. So What? She’s embarrassed that most of our kids are more responsible than european adults?

  22. The Guardian’s always been on the regressive side when it comes to guns.

    I was in Vegas a few weeks ago, and at “The Gun Store”, the range next to us had a girl of about eight or so on a MP5, with the rangemaster’s help of course.

    My main reaction? Gotta say… embarassment. She was getting better groupings than I was on the .45.

    The left in this country typically don’t have a tolerant outlook on guns in general. Heck, compare Sandy Hook and Dunblane. You guys managed to win with reason and logic. Us… well, there was the Mike Yardley thing, and it went downhill from there.

    • “The Guardian’s always been on the regressive side when it comes to guns.”

      Nice understatement there, Gareth. In other news, there are rumours that the Pope has flirted with Catholicism and may be considering buying a tall hat, while others have suggested the possibility of occasional ursine sylvan defaecation 🙂

      I was a pistol shooter until Dunblane and its aftermath; there was a definite element of “the people have spoken, the bastards” but if there’s one lesson for the US, it’s to keep firearms ownership popular, popularised and widespread so that for every one disturbed loner who goes berserk, there are tens of thousands of law-abiding, decent folk who own and use their weapons without any problems at all. That way, there’s at least a chance of putting the focus on the criminals where it belongs, not the weapons.

  23. I had a Chipmunk .22 rifle when I was a kid. Back then it was just a normal wooden stock. Single shot bolt action. Dad put a red dot scope on it for me. Probably one of the best presents I’ve ever received.

    I did learn a lot about how to safely handle a gun while target shooting and hunting. It was also good at teaching patience and good aiming since you only had one shot at a time.

    Good memories were made. Dad still has the gun and a picture of me looking near straight up a tree at a squirrel while holding the gun. Probably his favorite picture of his son.

    All that to say there is nothing wrong with a kid having their own gun. It requires good parenting to do it safely. Just like most things.

  24. It’s probably for the best that you simply ignore British anti-gun people. They spout drivial and lies.

  25. Ah, but where’s the fun in that? Even if they’re gunning for you in both a literal and figurative sense, a little gallows humor in the midst of the fight just helps us keep our focus.

  26. We are already in the zombie apocalypse. How else can we explain how these anti-any constitutional right politicians are getting voted into office so that we can continue to be zombies with more right taken away daily.

  27. OK, lessee…

    “… produced around 80,000 rifles for children.” So one documented fatality out of 80k units. Not a bad record at all. Cars should be so safe.

    Then there’s “…photographer An-Sofie Kesteleyn …began making plans for a trip to the American south [sic].” Unfortunately, OHIO isn’t exactly the heart of Dixie. Perhaps An-Sofie should invest in some geography lessons. At least she found North America, though. And she didn’t fly Malaysia Airlines.

  28. More English kids will die from the swill that the Brits call food than American kids will die from pink guns.

    But still, it’s good to see The Guardian going all batshit crazy about a Cricket. Now I can’t wait for one of those rare .9mm Glocks, in pink. For the Children™.

  29. I don’t really hate kids with guns. But I do hate pink guns. First off, it’s a useless (if not detrimental) cosmetic modification, which I’m against in any situation on firearms. Secondly, it lessens the perceived danger of a firearm. A gun is always dangerous, making it pink and “cuter” does not make it less dangerous. If you need a pink gun to get your daughter/girlfriend/ or wife to accept firearms, you should just let them not shoot. No need to give them a gun if they need that to use one.

    • You are missing some of the fun, here. I swear, I do not lie, I have anti gun friends who found it difficult to believe me when I informed them that just because a gun was pink did not mean it was not real. I swear! They even looked at me funny, once they understood I was laughing at their stupidity.

  30. I don’t quite see where either side is coming from. I’ve been gradually teaching my kids to shoot and for us it’s about the fun of hitting targets and a long range plan to hunt. Fear isn’t on the agenda.
    That said, my first reaction to this article is that the parents of the chubby girl in the lead photo should probably be more worried about her perishing from type 2 diabetes or heart disease, than jackbooted thugs seizing her little pink gun.


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