The firearms industry spends millions of dollars marketing guns to ever younger children so as to ensure future markets.
The industry’s strategies include giving firearms, ammunition and cash to youth groups; weakening state restrictions on hunting by young children; marketing an affordable military-style rifle for “junior shooters” and sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; and developing a target-shooting video game that promotes brand-name weapons, with links to the Web sites of their makers.
There are magazines supported by the industry such as Junior Shooters, an online magazine "for our next generation of shooting enthusiasts", that feature images of boys and girls with guns, including semiautomatic guns.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which is mainly financed by gun companies and associated businesses, "has awarded more than $650,000 to 75 colleges to help establish, expand and sustain shooting clubs and teams". The National Rifle Association (NRA) gives millions of dollars in grants each year to organisations such as Boy Scout councils and 4-H groups for shooting programs.
The Scholastic Steel Challenge, started in 2009, introduces children as young as 12 to competitive handgun shooting using steel targets. Its “platinum” sponsors include the shooting sports foundation, Smith & Wesson and Glock, which donated 60 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols, according to the group’s Web site.
Marketing researchers have advised those trying to get school target shooting programs introduced to emphasise "shooting sports only as a mechanism to teach other life skills, rather than an end to itself":
In another report, the authors warned against using human silhouettes for targets when trying to recruit new shooters and encouraged using words and phrases like “sharing the experience,” “family” and “fun.” They also said children should be enlisted to prod parents to let them join shooting activities: “Such a program could be called ‘Take Me Hunting’ or ‘Take Me Shooting.’ ”
The industry have also lobbied to lower the age at which children can legally hunt and have succeeded in some states. For example, in Wisconsin the minimum age for hunting was reduced from 12 years to 10 in 2009 and in Michigan, the minimum age "for hunting small game was eliminated for children accompanied by an adult mentor".
Research conducted by the Hunting Heritage Trust in cooperation with the
National Shooting Sports Foundation focussed on 8 to 17 year olds to find out how to utilise peer pressure to increase gun usage amongst children.
The study concluded:
youth who are exposed to hunting and target shooting, either through active personal participation or through proximity to family members or friend who hunt and shoot, are more likely to approve of hunting and shooting, more likely to be interested in taking part in these activities, more likely to encourage friends to participate in them, and less likely to negatively influence or discourage their peers from supporting or participating in hunting and target shooting... an opportunity exists for a "Youth Hunter and Shooter Ambassador Program" to be initiated to capitalize on the current population of youth hunters and shooters who can positively influence their fellow peers' attitudes toward the sports...
Some of the most important "talking points" for youth ambassadors include the following:
• That hunting and shooting are in fact safer than many other sports...
• That legal, regulated hunting does not cause wildlife populations to become endangered....
• That most hunters and shooters do obey laws related to these sports...
• That hunters and shooters do, in fact, care about wildlife...
Youth ambassadors should be encouraged to invite others to go hunting and shooting, talk about hunting and shooting (emphasising the points above), utilise social media to make the same points,
youth ambassadors and others should focus on getting newcomers to take a first step into target shooting through any means, whether a BB or pellet gun, paintball gun, or archery bow. The point should be to get newcomers started shooting something, with the natural next step being a move toward actual firearms. Initial interest, however, should be embraced in whatever form it presents itself.
The research also suggested that children be introduced to guns at camps that include "fishing, target shooting, camping, ethics, biology and ecology, archery, survival, techniques, photojournalism" where they can socialise and have a good time, as well as "within the widercontext of conservation and wildlife management".
In Australia the number of gun licenses issued to children from age 12 are increasing rapidly as the gun lobby argues that children should be able to shoot feral animals in national parks, if supervised by adults. In 2011, 410 game hunting licences were issued to children aged between 12 and 17 and in NSW 70 national parks are to be opened to amateur recreational shooters in 2013.