In the past, some gun producers, like Thompson/Center, have been staggeringly candid about their bid to appeal to younger consumers. For instance, in a review of Thompson/Center’s child-friendly gun “Hotshot,” the company’s director of marketing quoted back in 2014: “We’re targeting the six- to 12-year-old range and feel that with the inclusion of the one-inch spacer in the box, there will be a longer period that the child can use the rifle, potentially out to 15 years old.”
Meanwhile, youth-centered trade publications, like NRA Family or Junior Shooters, heavily feature guns tailored for kids and adolescents, often framing them as family-oriented purchases that preserve American values, like freedom.
“Each person who is introduced to the shooting sports and has a positive experience is another vote in favor of keeping our American heritage and freedom alive,” wrote Andry Frink, editor of Junior Shooters, in a 2012 editorial. “They may not be old enough to vote now, but they will be in the future. And think about how many lives they will come in contact with that they can impact! Each of us affects others, and it is up to us how we make an impact on the future.”
While federal law prohibits anyone under eighteen years old from owning a handgun, it’s fair to say that the gun lobby has, for better or worse, deeply embedded itself into parts of American youth culture. According to a 2015 survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, about 72 percent of gun owners started hunting between the ages of six and fifteen. About 1 in every 18 high students go to school armed with a gun, the American Academy of Pediatrics found in 2019.
The Washington Post observed that many states throughout the south and midwest have no age restriction on long guns (rifles and shotguns) to begin with. Given the wide swathe of literature that correlates gun ownership with household deaths and injuries, we should be especially concerned about more guns getting into the hands of kids and adolescents, Josh Sugarmann, Director of VPC, told Salon.
— Jon Skolnik in Gun manufactures quietly target young boys using social media