Are guns for children a good idea?

May 9, 2013 8:24:04 PM PDT
Just a week after a five-year-old Kentucky boy accidentally shot and killed his two-year-old sister with a rifle he got for his birthday, some are asking how young is too young to shoot a weapon?

The guns are kid-sized with names like "Crickett" and "Chipmunk." They come in pink for little girls. However, like all guns, they can be deadly.  

Go to your local firing range and you'll see all sorts of guns, and all sorts of people shooting them. However, according to gun industry data, you'll see fewer kids than you might have a decade ago.

To many gun enthusiasts, that's a problem. A report by gun lobbyists says when it comes to hunting, "Youth participation rates are not keeping pace." It calls "The need for aggressive recruitment -- urgent."

"And exactly what is wrong with encouraging another round of gun enthusiasts," asked Grass Roots North Carolina President Paul Valone

Valone says everyone should be encouraged to shoot guns, including kids. But should the industry target young people?

"First off, nothing is marketed to kids because kids can't buy guns," said Valone.

Critics, however, see it differently.

"Why are we laminating them in pink and baby blue and putting hello kitty stickers on them," asked the Executive Director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, Gale Neely.

Neely said she sees a concerted effort to get kids shooting early through guns, gear, and even video games.

"It's about selling guns.  It's about money and that's all," said Neely. "They aren't concerned about the safety of the children."

Wendell gun shop owner Barry Perry couldn't disagree more. He sells youth rifles, even pink ones.

"The training is monumental," said Perry, "They need to understand the safety aspects, everything and not only a safe direction to shoot it, but hearing and sight protection, safety as well as firing."

If you're going to teach kids about gun safety, you have to have a gun that kids can use. Most kids' rifles are quite a bit smaller than their adult counterparts. The problem, according to critics, comes when you start making them look like toys.

They point to the Kentucky tragedy as an example, but those who've grown up with guns see it differently.

"What they're doing is marketing their product to a young shooter," said Perry.  "I'm ok with that."

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