LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS, NOT OUR CHILDREN’S LIVES
“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” has long been a rallying cry for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and 2nd Amendment zealots.
The release of the new JR-15, a fully functional AR-15 military-style assault rifle sized down for a preschooler to operate, that mantra shifts to “warm, baby hands.” WEE1 Tactical, the gun with the baby talk name is small, light, and ergonomically designed for a “smaller handed [gun] enthusiast.”
What they really mean is younger. There’s no question about it – WEE1 advertising is punctuated with photos of a young girl with a pink bow barrette aiming to fire.
The JR-15 taps into a new market for young children who see guns as toys. Yet as gun sales soar, the NRA and others block efforts mandating safe storage or gun lock requirements.
Jodi Sandoval learned that the hard way. She keeps a memorial of her son, Noah, in her living room at her home in Columbus, Ohio. Noah was 14 years old when he and his best friend, Levi, were playing at Levi’s grandparents’ house and they found a gun hidden behind the television.
“He removed the clip, and he pointed it at Noah, and he fired a shot,” Sandoval said. Levi didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber, or that he had killed his friend until police told him.
Policy makers seem more tuned in to the fear mongering of the NRA and gun manufacturers than medical professionals who know that a young person’s physiology can’t handle handling guns. Dr. Denise Dowd of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, who helps write policy for the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that kids’ brains simply aren’t mature enough to be trusted around firearms, and they lack impulse control and their critical thinking skills are still developing.
Youth suicide rates are at record highs, with more and more children using guns to end their lives. It turns your stomach to think that the cutesy marketing of the JR-15 could present a more accessible option for children in crisis to kill themselves.
Young people are also buying into the gun manufacturers’ narrative that teens need a gun to protect themselves. Approximately 200 Philadelphia students were shot last school year. Thirty-three were sent to early graves. Many of the shooters were 18 or younger, many Black and Hispanic. Perhaps it’s not surprising that this coincides with a huge uptick in slick advertising targeting Blacks and Hispanics by the gun industry and the NRA.
Some lawmakers are trying to curb these well-funded advertising practices. For instance, the California legislature banned all gun advertising geared toward children, which gun manufacturers hope to undo in state courts. U.S. Senators are pushing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the marketing of guns to children. “We must stop the raining of bullets across the nation and stop this horrible marketing campaign — not only so it stops, but so that others don’t do it,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about the JR-15 advertising.
But the NRA’s deep-pocketed efforts to unseat any lawmaker who even hints at common sense gun laws will protect kids’ guns over kids themselves. It’s doubtful that even the “Founding Fathers” could have envisioned a well-regulated preschool militia.