Gun Campaign Targets Kids To Begin Shooting Faux Assault Weapons Early
Forget about Daisy pop guns, caps and “you’ll shoot your eyes out,” today’s kids can have their very own simulated, .22 cal. semi-automatic assault rifle.
Guns kill an estimated 18,000 children and teens a year, making firearms the leading cause of homicides and suicides of young people between the ages of 1 and 19, according to the non-profit, Everytown Research.
Despite such grim statistics, the firearms industry is aggressively marketing firearms to children. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry trade association and the National Rifle Association and related publications “consistently denies the risk associated with its products, especially in the marketing of guns to children,” said a statement from the non-profit, Violence Policy Center.
“From gun magazines, to websites, to social media, two things become clear. For some gun owners there is almost a race to the bottom to see how young a child can be to handle, and eventually possess, a gun. At the same time, there’s not infrequently an inverse trend to see how powerful a gun the child can handle,” said a policy center statement.
Among the firearms companies marketing to children is the Wee 1 Tactical Co. of Illinois, which offers a rifle for children that looks just like its deadly cousin, the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The one for kids is the company’s JR-15 assault rifle (a cute revision of the AR-15). It’s easily handled by a youngster as it is 20 percent smaller than the AR-15 semi-automatic and weighs just 2.3 lbs. The JR-15 fires .22 cal. bullets and like its adult namesake, it is a semi-automatic and can fire a round with each pull of the trigger.
With a price tag of $419, the JR-15 rifle “looks, feels, and operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun,” said a promotional statement from the Illinois firearms company. Until recently, the company’s logo was a boy skull with a blonde Mohawk haircut and a green pacifier and the girl skull with blonde pigtails with pink bows and a pink pacifier. The logo has been removed, after an uproar in Congress.
Another company, Keystone Sporting Arms, LLC, focuses on the beginning or youth shooter. The company markets single shot .22 cal. rifles and shotguns under the Crickett® and Chipmunk® brands which come in a youth-appealing rainbow of colors including red, white and blue; camo black and orange; purple; pink; blue; black; and brown.
In April 2013, a 2-year-old Kentucky girl was unintentionally shot and killed by her 5-year-old brother with a Keystone Sporting Arms, .22 cal. rifle that he had received as a birthday gift. The webpage for the gun includes stories featuring a friendly cartoon character, “Davey Crickett,” holding a rifle and standing atop the company’s slogan: “My First Rifle.” Various merch sold to go along with the Davey Crickett rifle include an armed Davey Crickett Beanie Baby, a Davey Crickette trading pin and a “my first rifle” dog tag.
Keystone’s mission statement says it strives “to instill gun safety in the minds of young shooters and encourage them to gain the knowledge and respect that hunting and shooting activities require and deserve.”
Among other tantalizing weapons marketed specially for the kiddies, is the Bushmaster AR-15 from Gander Mountain Sports, based in St. Paul, Minn. Unlike the real AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Gander Mountain Bushmaster AR-15 shoots .22 cal. bullets but otherwise it is “functionally and ergonomically identical to AR-15 type rifles,” according to the website.
“Designed for the indoor range and the youth shooter, this Carbon15 .22 LR Rimfire lightweight is sure to add new dimensions to your Bushmaster shooting pleasure,” the website notes.
Another rifle is the youth version of the SIG556 Classic semi-automatic rifle, modeled after the legendary Swiss-built, military SG 550 tactical rifle. The SIG556 classic is “available for law enforcement and responsible citizens.” Virginia-based, firearms manufacturer, Sig Sauer, offers a pretty good .22 cal. assault rifle copy for kids.
“It looks like the legendary SIG556, but look again. It’s the SIG522 Rifle firing affordable .22 long rifle. The new SIG522 has the look, feel, and action of the classic military-style SIG556 rifle…yet it costs much less, and fires affordable .22 long rifle rounds,” the website notes.
Bill’s Gun Shop & Range in Robbinsdale, Minn., explains its “Beretta ARX 160 in .22 long rifle is the company’s fun version of their current military carbine that was designed in 2008.” The military version is used in Italy, Albania, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and the Mexican Federal Police.
“December is the perfect month for Bill’s to offer this carbine as their Gun of the Month as plenty of kids (both young and old) will have a military replica .22 on their Christmas list,” the ad reads. “The Beretta ARX 160 is a great choice and the holiday gives you the perfect excuse to buy one and act like it is a gift for your son or daughter. Surrounded by candy canes, a bow, and ribbon, the assault weapon is the gun dealer’s ‘December Gun of the Month.’”
Junior Shooters, an on-line publication, caters to youths involved in various shooting disciplines. Junior Shooters is based in Idaho and circulates around the country, but not in California, where a new law, California bill AB2571, prohibits any firearm industry member from advertising or marketing any firearm-related product, “in a manner that is designed, intended, or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.” Junior Shooters is among a number of plaintiffs that have filed suit to overturn AB2571, which went into effect last July.
A disclaimer on the Junior Shooters website warns that “Due to California Bill AB2571, Junior Shooters is no longer available to juniors (Under 18) from the state of California. If you are a minor in California, please do not continue, otherwise, welcome to Junior Shooters.”
Junior Shooters provides information tailored for young people on various firearms including weapons that are similar to semi-automatic assault rifles. One article in the publication notes, “One of the best dedicated AR-type .22 rifles to come out in the last couple of years is Smith & Wesson’s M&P15–22. The M&P15–22 is built with high-strength polymer upper and lower receivers. This creates a reduced-weight rifle that retains the looks and operating features of the standard M&P rifle. Let me tell you, this rifle rocks!”
A report by the non-profit, Violence Policy Center on the impact of gun violence notes that public relations and marketing campaigns are designed to lure young shooters.
“If we don’t improve at cultivating new hunters and shooters, the sport we love and industry we work in will eventually die away. Like many enthusiast sports in this busy, competitive world, people are leaving faster than new ones are coming in — and this is a recipe for industry-wide trouble down the road,” said a report from Shooting Sports Retailer, “Shooting for a New Audience: Reaching New Demographics is Critical to Our Industry,” cited by the policy center.
“And of course, the problem with failing to recruit and grow is that numbers equate to political power. In an era when the private ownership and use of firearms, the right to ‘keep and bear arms,’ has come under increasing pressure, numbers and a young, vital membership are critical,” said the Shooting Sports Retailer article.
NRA Family InSights promoted “Marlin New Kid-Friendly Rifles” with, “If you’re a kid looking for your first rifle, this is the gun you need to tell your parents about.”
“To help hunting and target shooting get a head start over other activities, stakeholders such as managers and manufacturers should target programs toward youth 12 years old and younger,” said the NRA Family promotion.
“Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO),” calls itself “America’s most aggressive civil rights organization.” Its latest newsletter warned “Get Ready For Another Cynical, Useless ‘Gun Control’ Push By Dems.” The policy center noted a comment in the newsletter by JPFO writer, Nicki Kenyon.
“I can’t remember how old he was, exactly, when he shot his first firearm — I think he was probably 8 years old — but I know he was around 10 when he shot his first machine gun,” wrote Kenyon.
Kenyon wrote that he introduced his 4-year-old son to gun safety.
“He couldn’t quite tie his shoes yet, but we knew we had guns in the house, and we knew we needed to instill good habits early, because it was literally a matter of life and death. His father was a police officer, and I was active in gun rights, and made it a point to be armed as much as possible. I still do. It’s a matter of life and death,” Kenyon wrote.
One man, Caleb Lee, symbolizes the amoral, weapons-pushing privateers who pedal fear to make a profit. Lee, a veteran from Virginia, is owner of the website, UndergroundAssaultRifle.com. He is the author of the 95-page, “Underground Ak-47 Build Manual” along with other books such as “Concealed Carry 101,” “The Apocalyptic Timeline in the Book of Revelation,” and “Secrets to a Sexy Stomach,” none of which have been big sellers.
Lee sells on-line plans that purport to offer detailed instructions on how to build untraceable AR-15 assault rifles for just $27. He has been featured and his plans promoted on far right conspiracy outlets like WorldNetDaily and Glenn Beck.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Lee has urged Americans to stand against the government’s “jack-booted thugs” by buying his assault rifle plans.
“Underground Assault Rifle is a simple, step-by-step system that puts YOU in control of your Second Amendment rights and frees you forever from slavery and servitude to the lawmakers in Washington … so you can protect your home and family no matter what happens,” Lee claims. “Buy today and you’ll get six videos, a how-to manual, and a ‘special report’ on ‘the only place to hide your guns that the government will never find!’”
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Lee is offering nothing new and that instructions on building assault weapons are available for free on-line. Lee doesn’t offer direct access to parts suppliers but tells readers to search Google for unfinished stripped receivers, a key ingredient in assault weapons, then to jury-rig a drill press and use it as a mill. Lee also suggests that readers go on-line to buy or barter for the remaining parts of their homemade assault rifle.