Last week in Kentucky, a 5-year-old boy accidentally killed his 2-year-old sister using a .22 calibre, fully-functional children's rifle. Dubbed the Crickett, this very real gun is part of a healthy industry that focuses on the selling of children's firearms -- spearheaded by Kentucky Sporting Arms, who sells 60,000 rifles every year that are specifically designed for kids. American retail giant Walmart stocks the weapons -- which come in a range of different colours to attract boys and girls alike -- and technically, there's nothing illegal about that; however, the precedents set within other industries suggest that it should be.
Let's talk tobacco. Does anyone remember candy cigarettes? Introduced in the early 1900s, these chalky sugar or bubblegum sticks were wrapped in boxes with labels that resembled cigarettes -- and some companies even went so far as to dye the tips red so that each stick appeared to be 'lit.' Subsequently, studies have proven a strong statistical link between a history with fake cigarettes and heavy smoking later in life. It was agreed by most that the candy desensitized children, leading the sale of candy cigarettes to be banned in the UK, Canada and many European nations. Shockingly, campaigners have had no such luck in America.
That being said, you don't see candy cigarettes in many American shops now-a-days -- why is that? In short, because retailers have taken it upon themselves to ensure these kinds of dangerous products aren't available for purchase in their stores. Funny enough, guess who led the charge to ban candy cigarettes for the sake of our children's safety? Walmart -- who stocks the .22 Crickett rifle for children.
In fact, on Walmart's website, one happy customer gleefully reported that she had bought her daughter one of the weapons in hot pink, and that "its so lite its like your not carrying a gun." Would that children weren't carrying real guns; however, Keystone Sporting Arms' yearly sales suggest that quite a few American children are actually packing heat from quite a young age.
Toting slogans such as "My First Rifle" and "Quality Firearms for America's Youth," children's firearms manufacturer Keystone argues that "the goal of KSA is to instill gun safety in the minds of youth shooters and encourage them to gain the knowledge and respect that hunting and shooting activities require." Indeed, in the past their website has even featured a 'Kid's Corner,' which displayed images of toddlers modeling the company's range of firearms. On a side note, it's worth pointing out that the children's site has since been temporarily (and conveniently) removed from the public domain.
Consequently, one can't help but wonder: if the goal of Keystone is to 'instill gun safety in the minds of youth,' where does the death of 2-year-old Caroline Sparks -- who was killed by her brother's child-friendly gun -- come into play?
NRA members in Texas have already rationalized the young girl's death by shrugging that these weapons 'aren't toys,' and that it 'comes down to the responsibility of adults' to ensure that serious accidents are avoided. For once, they're absolutely right: guns are not toys, and it's the responsibility of adults everywhere to ensure that children aren't set up to make more fatal mistakes just because their gun-toting parents possess an innate desire to condition their children to adore firearms. After all, if candy cigarettes have been scientifically proven to hurt kids, what the hell do you think cute, pint-sized rifles do to them? Perhaps the next time America's biggest retailer campaigns to ban the sale of certain products in order to keep kids safe, it should look to its own sporting goods section.