Gun-articleLarge

Guns Being Marketed to a New Generation, The New York Times Investigates

Following the tragic mass shooting of grade schoolers in Newtown, Conn., the New York Times delves into the world of shopping guns to younger generations. It explores tactics such as sharp shooting video games, making guns more affordable for youngsters and the use of “peer ambassadors” who "should help introduce wary youngsters to guns slowly." The New York Times' investigative journalism on the gun industry's influence and the wide availability of firearms in America is shocking. Read the story below.

Selling a New Generation on Guns

Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.

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.

The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.

“Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”

The industry’s youth-marketing effort is backed by extensive social research and is carried out by an array of nonprofit groups financed by the gun industry, an examination by The New York Times found. The campaign picked up steam about five years ago with the completion of a major study that urged a stronger emphasis on the “recruitment and retention” of new hunters and target shooters.

The overall objective was summed up in another study, commissioned last year by the shooting sports industry, that suggested encouraging children experienced in firearms to recruit other young people. The report, which focused on children ages 8 to 17, said these “peer ambassadors” should help introduce wary youngsters to guns slowly, perhaps through paintball, archery or some other less intimidating activity.

“The point should be to get newcomers started shooting something, with the natural next step being a move toward actual firearms,” said the report, which was prepared for the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Hunting Heritage Trust.

Firearms manufacturers and their two primary surrogates, the National Rifle Association of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, have long been associated with high-profile battles to fend off efforts at gun control and to widen access to firearms. The public debate over the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere has focused largely on the availability of guns, along with mental illness and the influence of violent video games.

Little attention has been paid, though, to the industry’s youth-marketing initiatives. They stir passionate views, with proponents arguing that introducing children to guns can provide a safe and healthy pastime, and critics countering that it fosters a corrosive gun culture and is potentially dangerous.

The N.R.A. has for decades given grants for youth shooting programs, mostly to Boy Scout councils and 4-H groups, which traditionally involved single-shot rimfire rifles, BB guns and archery. Its $21 million in total grants in 2010 was nearly double what it gave out five years earlier.

Newer initiatives by other organizations go further, seeking to introduce children to high-powered rifles and handguns while invoking the same rationale of those older, more traditional programs: that firearms can teach “life skills” like responsibility, ethics and citizenship. And the gun industry points to injury statistics that it says show a greater likelihood of getting hurt cheerleading or playing softball than using firearms for fun and sport.

Still, some experts in child psychiatry say that encouraging youthful exposure to guns, even in a structured setting with an emphasis on safety, is asking for trouble. Dr. Jess P. Shatkin, the director of undergraduate studies in child and adolescent mental health at New York University, said that young people are naturally impulsive and that their brains “are engineered to take risks,” making them ill suited for handling guns.

“There are lots of ways to teach responsibility to a kid,” Dr. Shatkin said. “You don’t need a gun to do it.”

Steve Sanetti, the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said it was better to instruct children in the safe use of a firearm through hunting and target shooting, and engage them in positive ways with the heritage of guns in America. His industry is well positioned for the task, he said, but faces an unusual challenge: introducing minors to activities that involve products they cannot legally buy and that require a high level of maturity.

Ultimately, Mr. Sanetti said, it should be left to parents, not the government, to decide if and when to introduce their children to shooting and what sort of firearms to use.

“It’s a very significant decision,” he said, “and it involves the personal responsibility of the parent and personal responsibility of the child.”

Trying to Reverse a Trend

The shooting sports foundation, the tax-exempt trade association for the gun industry, is a driving force behind many of the newest youth initiatives. Its national headquarters is in Newtown, just a few miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza, 20, used his mother’s Bushmaster AR-15 to kill 20 children and 6 adults last month.

The foundation’s $26 million budget is financed mostly by gun companies, associated businesses and the foundation’s SHOT Show, the industry’s annual trade show, according to its latest tax return.

Although shooting sports and gun sales have enjoyed a rebound recently, the long-term demographics are not favorable, as urbanization, the growth of indoor pursuits like video games and changing cultural mores erode consumer interest. Licensed hunters fell from 7 percent of the population in 1975 to fewer than 5 percent in 2005, according to federal data. Galvanized by the declining share, the industry redoubled its efforts to reverse the trend about five years ago.

The focus on young people has been accompanied by foundation-sponsored research examining popular attitudes toward hunting and shooting. Some of the studies used focus groups and telephone surveys of teenagers to explore their feelings about guns and people who use them, and offered strategies for generating a greater acceptance of firearms.

The Times reviewed more than a thousand pages of these studies, obtained from gun industry Web sites and online archives, some of them produced as recently as last year. Most were prepared by consultants retained by the foundation, and at least one was financed with a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

In an interview, Mr. Sanetti said the youth-centered research was driven by the inevitable “tension” the industry faces, given that no one under 18 can buy a rifle or a shotgun from a licensed dealer or even possess a handgun under most circumstances. That means looking for creative and appropriate ways to introduce children to shooting sports.

“There’s nothing alarmist or sinister about it,” Mr. Sanetti said. “It’s realistic.”

Pointing to the need to “start them young,” one study concluded that “stakeholders such as managers and manufacturers should target programs toward youth 12 years old and younger.”

“This is the time that youth are being targeted with competing activities,” it said. “It is important to consider more hunting and target-shooting recruitment programs aimed at middle school level, or earlier.”

Aware that introducing firearms to young children could meet with resistance, several studies suggested methods for smoothing the way for target-shooting programs in schools. One cautioned, “When approaching school systems, it is important to frame the 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 recognized that state laws limiting hunting by children could pose a problem, according to a “Youth Hunting Report” prepared by the shooting sports foundation and two other groups. Declaring that “the need for aggressive recruitment is urgent,” the report said a primary objective should be to “eliminate or reduce age minimums.” Still another study recommended allowing children to get a provisional license to hunt with an adult, “perhaps even before requiring them to take hunter safety courses.”

The effort has succeeded in a number of states, including Wisconsin, which in 2009 lowered the minimum hunting age to 10 from 12, and Michigan, where in 2011 the age minimum for hunting small game was eliminated for children accompanied by an adult mentor. The foundation cited statistics suggesting that youth involvement in hunting, as well as target shooting, had picked up in recent years amid the renewed focus on recruitment.

Gun companies have spent millions of dollars to put their recruitment strategies into action, either directly or through the shooting sports foundation and other organizations. The support takes many forms.

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.

The site features a quote from a gun company executive praising the youth initiative and saying that “anyone in the firearms industry that overlooks its potential is missing the boat.”

Larry Potterfield, the founder of MidwayUSA, one of the nation’s largest sellers of shooting supplies and a major sponsor of the Scholastic Steel Challenge, said he did not fire a handgun until he was 21, adding that they “are the most difficult guns to learn to shoot well.” But, he said, he sees nothing wrong with children using them.

“Kids need arm strength and good patience to learn to shoot a handgun well,” he said in an e-mail, “and I would think that would come in the 12-14 age group for most kids.”

Another organization, the nonprofit Youth Shooting Sports Alliance, which was created in 2007, has received close to $1 million in cash, guns and equipment from the shooting sports foundation and firearms-related companies, including ATK, Winchester and Sturm, Ruger & Company, its tax returns show. In 2011, the alliance awarded 58 grants. A typical grant: 23 rifles, 4 shotguns, 16 cases of ammunition and other materials, which went to a Michigan youth camp.

The foundation and gun companies also support Junior Shooters magazine, which is based in Idaho and was started in 2007. The publication is filled with catchy advertisements and articles about things like zombie targets, pink guns and, under the heading “Kids Gear,” tactical rifle components with military-style features like pistol grips and collapsible stocks.

Gun companies often send new models to the magazine for children to try out with adult supervision. Shortly after Sturm, Ruger announced in 2009 a new, lightweight semiautomatic rifle that had the “look and feel” of an AR-15 but used less expensive .22-caliber cartridges, Junior Shooters received one for review. The magazine had three boys ages 14 to 17 fire it and wrote that they “had an absolute ball!”

Junior Shooters’ editor, Andy Fink, acknowledged in an editorial that some of his magazine’s content stirred controversy.

“I have heard people say, even shooters that participate in some of the shotgun shooting sports, such things as, ‘Why do you need a semiautomatic gun for hunting?’ ” he wrote. But if the industry is to survive, he said, gun enthusiasts must embrace all youth shooting activities, including ones “using semiautomatic firearms with magazines holding 30-100 rounds.”

In an interview, Mr. Fink elaborated. Semiautomatic firearms are actually not weapons, he said, unless someone chooses to hurt another person with them, and their image has been unfairly tainted by the news media. There is no legitimate reason children should not learn to safely use an AR-15 for recreation, he said.

“They’re a tool, not any different than a car or a baseball bat,” Mr. Fink said. “It’s no different than a junior shooting a .22 or a shotgun. The difference is in the perception of the viewer.”

[Read more at the New York Times]

From the Web

More on Vibe

Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

Netflix Pledges To Invest $100 Million Into Black Owned-Banks And Black Communities

As part of their “commitment to racial equality,” Netflix has pledged to invest $100 million into Black communities to help build economic opportunity.

"Going forward, Netflix is going to allocate two percent of our cash holdings - initially up to $100 million - into financial institutions and organizations that directly support Black communities in the U.S.,” Aaron Mitchell, director of talent and acquisition,  and Shannon Alwyn, treasury director, announced in a blog post on Tuesday (June 30).

The company will move $25 million into a newly established Black Economic Development Initiative managed by Local Initiative Support Corporation, a nonprofit community development financial organization that assists underserved communities. LISC will invest the money into “Black financial institutions serving low and moderate-income communities and Black community development corporations in the U.S.”

Additionally, Netflix plans to make a $10 million “transformational deposit” into Hope Credit Union to help boost “economic opportunity” in Black communities in the Deep South.

“This capital will fuel social mobility and opportunity in the low- and moderate-income communities these groups serve,” the company added. “We plan to redirect even more of our cash to Black-led and focused institutions as we grow, and we hope others will do the same.”

Continue Reading
Getty Images

August Alsina Stands By Comments About Jada Pinkett Smith

August Alsina isn’t done speaking up. The singer took to Instagram on Friday (July 3) to clarify a few things about his bombshell interview with Angela Yee.

“The journey to freedom is a deeply complex, tricky, and turbulent road to tow; yet very necessary,” begins the lengthy post.

The 27-year-old New Orleans native also spoke about oppression, and affirms his commitment to “transparency” and “truth,” no matter how hard things get. “Truth & Transparency makes us uncomfortable, yes, but I can’t apologize for that. A tower of truth can never fall, only a tower of lies can do that. My truth is MY truth, & [it's] mine to own. There is no right or wrong here, it simply just IS.”

Towards the end of the post, Alsina appears to directly address Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith. “My heart has no malice or hate toward anyone on this planet. I just simply want the chains off & I’m willing to DIE getting there. The gift of freedom is yours to have, God promises us that, but only if you’re willing & God is not a man that HE should lie.. & I’m His SON, so neither would I.

“With that being said,” he continued. “I should also say that, no one was side swiped by any conversation, everyone got courtesy calls time in advance. Wishing Everyone Big Love!”

The Smiths have denied Alsina’s claims that he had an affair with Jada with Will's permission. On Thursday (July 2), Jada announced that she will be booking herself on Red Table Talk, presumably to address the rumors.

Read Alsina's full Instagram post below.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

God said, We may grow weary and tired fighting in the fire, but we shall NOT be burned! The journey to freedom is a deeply complex, tricky, and turbulent road to tow; yet very necessary. Oppression comes in so many forms these days, beginning w/ physical slavery and bondage to the white man, then passed down generational programming that manifest into mental enslavement. Slaves to an idea, slaves to an image, slaves to a code of conduct, slaves to a picture you’ve created in your mind.. even if it contains many falsities.. & anything that differentiates from your “idea” & “image” feels like an attack. & I get it; not only do i get it but I’m also sorry you feel that way, BUT, The only attack here is against the invisible walls of silent societal construct and “code” we place upon each other & upon ourselves hidden behind the desires of others approval & acceptance; another form of slavery & bondage that blocks one’s truest self from showing & spirit flow. Be blocked and stuck for what? Live silent, pressed down crippled in fear for who ? Adversary is but a gift given to you to flourish. We are surround by so much disharmony in this external world, so it is my forever job to do whatever’s necessary to reach the gift of harmony within myself. Truth & Transparency makes us uncomfortable, yes, but i can’t apologize for that. A tower of truth can never fall, only a tower of lies can do that. My truth is MY truth, & its mine to own. There is no right or wrong here, it simply just IS. & I make room and have acceptance for your thoughts and opinions, regardless if I agree or not, you have that freedom to feel WHATEVER it is u feel because when you’re at TRUE peace, all of the noise and chatter becomes that of a whisper. My heart has no malice or hate toward anyone on this planet. I just simply want the chains off & I’m willing to DIE getting there. The gift of freedom is yours to have, God promises us that, but only if you’re willing. &God is not a man that HE should lie.. & I’m His SON, so neither would I. 🙏🏽 W/ that being said i should also say that, no one was side swiped by any conversation, everyone got courtesy calls time in advance. Wishing Everyone Big Love!

A post shared by Yungin' (@augustalsina) on Jul 3, 2020 at 1:12pm PDT

Continue Reading
Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images

Jay Z’s Team Roc Demands Arrest Of Milwaukee Cop Who Killed 3 People

Team Roc, the social justice sector under Jay Z’s Roc Nation imprint, is demanding the arrest and prosecution of a Milwaukee cop who shot and killed three people of color, including a Black teenage boy, over the last five years.

The organization took out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday (July 2), calling for the arrest of Officer Joseph Mensah. “Let us start off with a simple question,” reads the letter addressed to Milwaukee County D.A. John Chisolm.“How many more people must die at the hands of Officer Joseph Mensah? Since joining the Wauwatosa Police Department in 2015, Mensah has shot and killed three men of color — Alvin Cole, Antonio Gonzales and Jay Anderson — with an excessive total of NINETEEN fired shots. His actions demonstrate an utter disregard for the lives of these young men.”

The letter goes on to state that the police department’s failure to enforce body cameras, and “failure to preserve video evidence” has impeded numerous investigations. “We are calling for your office to prosecute Mensah to ensure that he never kills anyone again, and to immediately outfit all of our police officers with body cameras. It is your responsibility to do the right thing, hold Mensah accountable for his actions and protect Wauwatosa citizens from further tragedy.”

Cole, the youngest of the shooting victims, was killed in February. Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber claims that the 17 year old fired a gun at officers “before the police officer fired theirs.”

Gonzales, 29, was killed in July 2015, because he refused to drop a sword. At the time, police were responding to a 911 call placed by a homeowner who claimed Gonzales was intoxicated and behaving erratically.

Anderson, a 25-year-old father, was shot and killed while sitting in his car at about 3 a.m. on June 23, 2016. Mensah claimed that Anderson reached for a gun as he approached the vehicle. Prosecutors decided that Mensah acted in self defense, but have since agreed to review the case.

“I would like to see him do some time for the killings he has done,” Anderson's mother said of Mensah. “It is not norma to kill three people. He is a murderer."

Read Team Roc's full letter below.

JAY-Z's Team Roc calls for the prosecution of police officer who has killed 3 men of color

The social justice sector of Roc Nation wrote an open letter in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to Milwaukee DA @DAJohnChisholm,calling for the firing & prosecution of officer Joseph Mensah pic.twitter.com/RvDfh7jSCV

— JAY-Z Daily (@JAY_Z_Daily) July 2, 2020

Continue Reading

Top Stories