Gun Industry and NRA Target Young Children as Next Generation of Customers and Pro-Gun Advocates, New VPC Study Finds

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“Start Them Young” documents how the firearms industry and gun lobby market guns to children

Washington, DC–The firearms industry and gun lobby are targeting children as young as grade-school age for financial and political gain, a comprehensive new study from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) reveals.

The 54-page report, “Start Them Young” — How the Firearms Industry and Gun Lobby Are Targeting Your Children, documents ongoing efforts by the gun industry and gun lobby to market guns to children. In recent years these efforts have intensified with little regard for the lethal consequences: the use of guns by children and teens in suicides, homicides, fatal unintentional shootings, and even mass murder.

The study reveals the scope of this marketing effort through: gun industry advertisements, catalog copy, articles, marketing documents, and quotes; NRA articles and materials for its “Junior Members” and other youth; articles “For Kids By Kids” in the youth-oriented gun publication Junior Shooters; and numerous photos.

VPC Executive Director and study author Josh Sugarmann states: “Imagine the public outcry if the alcohol or tobacco industries introduced child-friendly versions of their adult products. Or imagine if they devised a plan to deploy ‘youth ambassadors’ to convince their playmates to join them in these adult activities. Yet the firearms industry and gun lobby are doing all of these things and more in their aggressive efforts to market guns to children.”

As household gun ownership has steadily declined and the primary gun market of white males continues to age, the firearms industry has set its sights on America’s children. Much like the tobacco industry’s search for replacement smokers, the gun industry is seeking replacement shooters. Along with the hope of increased gun sales, a corollary goal of this effort is the creation of the next generation of pro-gun advocates for future political battles.

“Start Them Young” includes numerous examples of how the firearms industry and gun lobby are targeting children, which include:

Despite attempts by the firearms industry and gun lobby to dismiss the threats posed by marketing guns to children (even claiming that hunting is safer than bowling), the industry’s actions have lethal and predictable consequences.

In just one recent example, earlier this month, 11-year-old Benjamin Tiller was found guilty in the October 2015 murder of eight-year-old McKayla Dyer in White Pine, Tennessee, after she refused to allow him to play with her puppy. Police said the fifth-grade boy used his father’s shotgun to kill the little girl. The boy, who had been trained in firearm safety and frequently hunted with his father, was sentenced to state custody until the age of 19. His five siblings were placed with relatives and the state.

The study also contains a series of policy recommendations.

For more details on the gun industry’s marketing efforts targeting children, along with numerous photos, gun industry catalog images, and videos, the full report is available in a web version or in PDF format.

A companion video to the report can be viewed below:


The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on Twitter and Facebook.