Should gun manufacturers market weapons to children?

Should gun manufacturers market weapons to children?


by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC

Posted on May 2, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Updated Thursday, May 2 at 7:20 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A local gun shop owner says the death of a toddler in Kentucky should serve as a reminder of the importance of gun safety.

NBC Charlotte visited Larry Hyatt, owner of the largest gun store in the country. He carries the .22 Crickett Rifle, the same make and model held by the 5-year-old, who accidentally shot his 2-year-old sister at home.

The boy received the rifle as a birthday present. Authorities say their mother stepped out of the house for a moment when the rifle went off. The gun had been loaded and left in the corner inside the house.

The Crickett rifle, made by Pennsylvania-based Milton Company as part of the, “My first rifle,” series, is a popular choice among parents at Hyatt Gun Shop.

"This is primarily the first gun that they would get a kid, because kids can aim it properly," he said.

The rifles come in different colors, and made with a short stock so it can be easily handled by children.

The tragedy has some asking if children as young as five should be handling guns, and if firearms should be marketed to children.

Hyatt says age has nothing to do with what happened in Kentucky.

"Every child matures at a different level, so age alone isn't it. A 14-year-old may be worse than an 8-year-old, you've got to evaluate your own child, but no matter what, you've got to have an adult with the child, it's not something the child should have access to without the adult, that is the number one," he said.

Roger Ayscue is a parent and certified firearms instructor.  His own children had trained with the same Crickett model, when they were as young as 8.

"The key is not how young was the child, if there is direct parental involvement. The key is why was the 5-year-old able to get a hold of the gun,” he questioned.

Ayscue says even in a household of trained marksmen, extreme measures are taken to ensure his childrens' safety at home.

The rifle is kept separate from the ammunition. The rifle is locked up, and secured with a gun lock.  He says parents must never give children access to firearms without adult supervision.

Ayscue also showed NBC Charlotte how the gun has several safety features built-in. The gun is made to shoot one bullet at a time. In his experience, most children, especially kids under age five, lack the dexterity to load the bullets themselves.

"A child could not take a .22 and drop it in here," he explains. "You actually have to feed the round and then close the bolt and then an adult has to pull the cocking knob," explains Ayscue.

Hyatt says gun accidents are very rare, but it happens when parents fail to teach their children that a gun is not a toy.

"It's just not a matter of the gun being loaded; you treat all guns like they are loaded. You have trigger locks, gun cabinets, gun safes, there are so many ways you can keep a gun at a place that is safe," he said.

"Just keeping them ignorant of guns can be a danger in itself.  You put a gun to where a kid can get to it-- you'll be surprised; they will climb up on a chair and get it out of the closest, so you got to have it locked up."