For Release: Tuesday, December 18, 2001
Washington, DC – The gun industry has unleashed a new wave of smaller, lighter versions of adult firearms and is marketing them as youth models for use by children as young as four years old, according to a 21-page study released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study, “A .22 For Christmas” – How the Gun Industry Designs and Markets Firearms for Children and Youth, reveals how the gun industry – working hand-in-hand with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun industry trade group the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) – is targeting children to ensure its fiscal and political future. As Handgunsmagazine stated this summer regarding children and guns: “they are our salvation in the fight for liberty and the preservation of the shooting sports.”
“The gun industry promises that a gun in a child’s hand is a short-cut to responsibility and maturity. In fact, the only guarantee is one of increased risk of death and injury,” states Marty Langley, VPC policy analyst and study author. “The firearms industry and gun lobby are attempting to secure their own survival by endangering that of our children.”
In spite of recent reports of short-term spikes in gun sales following the September 11 terrorist attacks, gun ownership overall has been steadily declining for several decades. As a spokesman for handgun manufacturer Glock lamented in 1996, “grandpa or dad isn’t taking the kid out into the field to teach him how to shoot anymore.”
“A .22 for Christmas” details more than 40 youth firearms from 20 manufacturers and reveals gun lobby efforts to entice children through the promotion of such activities as “practical” or “combat” shooting, where participants navigate a run-and-gun, self-defense course using a wide range of weapons and “Cowboy Action” shooting, where participants dress up and take part in “wild west” scenarios. It also reveals how the gun lobby explains that smaller, low-caliber handguns can be used to fit the small hands of children. And while the gun industry promises that such training virtually guarantees good citizenship, the exact opposite may be true. In 1998, 11-year-old Andrew Golden – who had been taught combat shooting by his father – and 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson ambushed their classmates at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, killing four students and a teacher while wounding 10 others.
The study reveals how gunmakers openly acknowledge their desire to cultivate an expanded youth market, even though to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed gun dealer the buyer must be 21 years old for a handgun, and 18 years old for a rifle or shotgun. Weapons can be purchased for children by adults, however, with limited federal age restrictions. In the study, the VPC recommends that federal law be changed so that possession restrictions match those for sales.