The percentages of gun owners and licensed hunters in the US are in decline. With that in mind, gun makers have stepped up their marketing to the next generation of potential gun-buyers, according to a report that's currently the most-read article on the NYTimes website.
The piece quotes Junior Shooters, a gun industry-sponsored magazine, which ends a piece on target-shooting with AR-15s thusly: "Who knows? Maybe you'll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!"
Marketing AR-15s to youngsters is part of a broader push to make sure that gun sports continue thriving among the next generation, according to The NYTimes's Mike McIntire. "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."
Youth-targeted campaigns are back by extensive research, including a major 2007 report which revealed the importance of "peer ambassadors." The study suggested that young shooters should introduce their friends to guns gradually, "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.
The piece quotes Larry Potterfield, the founder of MidwayUSA, one of America's largest shooting suppliers. He had his own kids learn to shoot "boy's rifles" at the age of 4, and he's given more than $5 million to kids' shooting programs, donations that he says are motivated by "pure benevolence," not "return on investment."
"We grew up and live in rural America and have owned guns, hunted and fished all of our lives," he told the NYTimes. "This is our community, and we hope to preserve it for future generations."