US firearms industry marketing to children as young as six years old: Report

A man shows a girl how to hold an airsoft gun during the NRA Youth Day in Texas.
A man shows a girl how to hold an airsoft gun during the NRA Youth Day in Texas. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The American firearms industry is targeting children as young as six with brightly coloured guns and encouraging parents to let children take up shooting at an early age, according to a report.

The Violence Policy Centre, which aims to stop gun violence, said in its report on Thursday (Feb 18) that gun manufacturers are marketing to the youngest consumers because their primary market - white men - is aging.

"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," the group said in a statement.

"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."

Examples of "aggressive efforts" to market to children include rifles made with plastic parts so they are easier to handle, with less weight and recoil, the report said. Some manufacturers sell firearms in a variety of kid-friendly bright colours, including pink for girls.

The report also pointed out that the firearms industry and its lobby want parents to let their children "access guns at the earliest possible age."

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the main gun lobby in the US, previously had a website for its junior members, divided into "Under 8" and "8 and Up," the Violence Policy Centre said.

Now called "NRA Family," the website's content includes a 2014 article reviewing the Thompson/Centre HotShot youth rifle, calling it "a tiny gun intended for the very youngest shooters - the ultimate first gun."

The article cited the manufacturer as saying the rifle is targeted to kids aged six to 12.

Gun violence is rife in the US, where a third of children live in a household with at least one weapon, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety. Its statistics show that seven children and teens are killed with guns in the US on an average day.

The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to an after-hours call seeking comment Thursday evening.