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die Zeit, Germany

Guns for Kids

By Ragnar Vogt

The American gun industry is courting kids. It spends millions of dollars to put rifles and pistols into the hands of more children.

Translated By Ron Argentati

27 January 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Germany - die Zeit - Original Article (German)

“Who knows?” was the question asked in the American magazine “Junior Shooters.” It then went on to say, “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!” The article was about the assault rifle used in several massacres, among them the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado, but those incidents were not the subject of the article. The magazine is supported by the weapons industry. The magazine is aimed at children and its current cover shows a 15-year-old proudly brandishing a semi-automatic rifle.

The killings in Newtown where 20 children and six adults were murdered shocked many Americans. Now President Obama wants to tighten gun laws: He wants to prohibit ownership of assault rifles such as the AR-15 and increase controls over gun buyers.

But the debate about handling weapons has thus far neglected one specific point, as the “New York Times” pointed out: The gun manufacturers place great store in acquainting children and young people with guns and teaching them to shoot early on. Lobbyists spend tens of millions of dollars on gun advertising and on paying lobbyists in Washington.

Bullets for Boy Scouts

Scouting troops are given guns and ammunition free of charge. Competitive target shooting programs for the young are sponsored. In addition, the lobby fights to prevent the passage of laws aimed at age limits for hunters.

The reason for their efforts: Pro-gun groups fear a lessening of their ranks. While gun sales have steadily risen in recent years and gun sports have again become popular in the U.S., urbanization and an aging population are bad omens for the gun business.

Besides that, there has been a change in the way children spend their leisure time. Today, kids would rather sit at a video console at home than crawl around in the mud with a gun. The number of licensed hunters declined from seven percent of the population in 1975 to just five percent today. That's why the gun industry has doubled its efforts to attract minors over the past five years.

Learning Responsibility by Shooting?

The campaign is accompanied by comprehensive social research—funded by companies closely allied to the gun manufacturers, according to the “New York Times.” The newspaper mentions one study that was sponsored by a hunting industry consortium. In it, they say that children between the ages of eight and 17 should be encouraged to instill an enthusiasm for gun sports among their contemporaries.

Minors should be made used to using weapons by introducing them first to archery or paintball. The study concludes that the goal is to get the kids accustomed to shooting at things with the next natural step being their introduction to real guns.

The two main pro-gun organization lobbies – the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation are dedicated to ensuring that children learn to shoot at the earliest possible age. In 2010, the NRA spent $23 million on programs sharing that goal. The most common justification given is that a child will learn ethics and responsibility through the use of guns.

To that end, the NRA produced a game to be played on iPhone and iPad that is recommended for children over the age of four. The ego-shooter bears the name Practice Range and is available free of charge. With it, kids can shoot weapons actually available for sale in the U.S.— even with the AR-15 that was originally designed and built for military use.



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