The National Rifle Association (NRA)’s overtures to children have come under fire after its annual conference last week, which advertised weapons for children and advocated storing firearms in kids’ rooms just on the heels of the fatal shooting of a two year old by her five year old brother. A ThinkProgress review of the NRA children’s magazine, InSights, found another piece of disturbing advice: kids should build target ranges inside their homes.
The article, “BB, It’s Cold Outside,” ran in the January 2013 edition of InSights. The spread features a picture of a young-looking boy holding a BB gun next to a fireplace, and is addressed to children who are “shooting a real gun now” but can’t wait to practice until it’s warm enough outside to make firing one fun. The NRA article recommends that, instead, the child build a home BB gun range to keep up.
While the article does tell kids to follow standard firing range safety rules and ask adult permission before setting up the indoor range, here are some other tips it offers:
— “Eliminate ricochet with a proper backstop. You have no idea how bouncy a tiny metal ball can be until you hear one whizzing by your head.”
— “There are plenty of indoor range setups you can find on the internet.”
— “You don’t want people opening a door or looking in a window to see a BB gun pointing at them.”
— “While you’re thinking of cool stuff to use as targets, also keep in mind how you’re going to set them up in your range. Hanging targets work great, by the way.”
— “When you’re trying to improve accuracy, BB guns are the best. If you have a habit of flinching when pulling the trigger, BB guns will help you work that out.”
The online edition of the article links to a previous InSights feature article, which helpfully reminds young children that “The first and most important thing to remember is that with air guns, any projectile that does not hit a proper pellet stop has a very high possibility of a ricochet or bounce back. This is particularly true with a BB gun using round steel projectiles.”
Though BB guns are powered by air rather than gunpowder, they’re still very dangerous. A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics found that BB guns and similar weapons send roughly 22,000 Americans to the emergency room each year, the overwhelming majority of whom are children aged 5–14. These injuries have, in some cases, been fatal. The American Association of Pediatrics has concluded that these guns “are weapons and should never be characterized as toys,” partly because “the range of muzzle velocities for nonpowder guns overlaps velocities reached by traditional firearms.”
It’s also questionable whether young children can be trusted to accurately carry out all of the NRA’s safety instructions. Not only are young children notoriously clumsy and irresponsible, but it’s unclear whether, say, an eight year old is capable of understanding the difference in lethality and risk between BB guns and real firearms. The Savage Arms .22 “Rascal” .22 rifles, which are frequently advertised in InSights under the banner “One Shot! One Thrill!,” don’t look all that different from some BB gun models.