Target: Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation
Goal: End the gun industry’s shameless advertising targeted at children
An article in The New York Times recently discussed the gun industry’s strategies to cultivate a new generation of backers for America’s fervent gun culture. The years-long, multi-million dollar push by the industry to hook children included providing youth groups with firearms, ammunition and money; sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; teen-focused magazine ads; developing a video game that promotes target-shooting and advertises brand-name weapons; offering “junior shooters” discounts on military-style semi-automatic rifles; and lobbying to lower state age limits for hunting.
After analyzing research conducted by nonprofit groups funded by the gun industry, it was found that in order to appeal to children ages 8-17, the industry should establish “peer ambassadors” to befriend other youths and introduce them to guns, through activities like archery.
An advertisement in Junior Shooters, a magazine whose goal is to get kids involved in recreational use of firearms, recently directed readers to a coupon for buying an AR-15 Rifle. The coupon came after an article written about the weapon, in which the author encouraged kids to show the coupon to a parent. “Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!” The AR-15 is the same firearm Adam Lanza used to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year.
The industry promotes the use of gun by youths through stating that guns can teach children “life skills” such as responsibility, ethics and citizenship. The gun industry also spends a lot of money trying to establish shooting as a “character-building” hobby for young people by creating shooting clubs or encouraging existing youth organizations to adopt shooting as an activity for members.
When it comes to marketing guns to kids, gun industry spokesmen don’t just avoid reminding potential customers that guns are weapons, but sometimes outright deny it, as did Andy Fink, the editor of Junior Shooters magazine. In an interview, Mr. Fink elaborated. The image of semiautomatic weapons, he says, have been unfairly tainted by the news media. Larry Potterfield, the CEO of Midway USA, which makes a fortune off gun sales, has given $5 million to youth shooting programs. “Our gifting is pure benevolence,” he says.
In the wake of the Newtown tragedy and continued gun violence throughout the nation, calling the self-interested exploitation of children “benevolence” is disturbing, out-of-touch, and wrong. Tell the gun industry to stop marketing firearms to children.
Dear Mr. Sanetti,
Provided the recent tragedy in Newtown Connecticut, it seems particularly insidious that your industry continues to market firearms toward children with no reserve or hesitation. Children’s minds and faculties are not fully developed, and by specifically targeting them in your marketing campaigns, you minimize the significant impact and implications of guns in America. Your industry claims that teaching children about guns can cultivate life skills like responsibility, but exposing children to weapons in the context of the escalating gun violence in America is anything but responsible. Tapping into a child’s psyche by convincing them to ask for weapons for Christmas is pernicious and predatory.
If children are not old enough to purchase firearms, they should not be subjected to the shameless advertising in which your industry has engaged. By “priming” children at a young age to believe that weapons are like toys, you are indubitably contributing to a culture of gun violence. We urge you to please reconsider your large-scale undertaking to market firearms to American children. Please honor those who have lost loved ones from gun violence, and all those whose lives have been affected by gun tragedy, and end your youth-centered advertising campaign.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: US Air Force