Hold gun makers responsible for marketing dangerous weapons to young people

Gun manufacturers want to make money by getting the next generation interested in buying guns, but it’s not OK to put firearms in the hands of people too young to use them responsibly.

SHARE Hold gun makers responsible for marketing dangerous weapons to young people
An attendee holds a Springfield Armory SAINT AR-15 style rifle displayed during the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on Saturday.

An attendee holds a Springfield Armory SAINT AR-15-style rifle displayed during the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Houston on May 28.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

By marketing their weapons to young people, gun manufacturers are responsible for much of the mayhem in America.

The nation has seen the horrific results play out recently from Buffalo, New York, to Uvalde, Texas, to Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend.

At a Buffalo supermarket, 10 dead, three injured. In an Uvalde elementary school, 21 dead, 17 wounded. In Chicago, 51 shot, nine dead.

The alleged Buffalo shooter is 18; so was the Uvalde shooter. In Chicago, many shooters in the past have been teens. As a nation, we should have no tolerance for efforts to entice young people to obtain deadly weapons.

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Just days before the deadly Texas school shooting, manufacturer Daniel Defense posted a photo of a child holding a firearm similar to its semi-automatic rifle model that 18-year-old Salvador Rolando used to kill 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde.

The gun industry has also even used images of toddlers to promote gun ownership, said former Illinois state Sen. Dan Kotowski, chairman of One Aim, a gun safety group.

“They try to start out with the very young,” Kotowski said. “That is their intent.”

What other industry gets away with marketing dangerous products to young people?

Not one.

A manufacturer selling teddy bears has to follow rules about avoiding sharp edges, loose points and flammability. The idea is to make sure the teddy bears are safe, not dangerous. But guns can be as dangerous as manufacturers want to make them. The industry is for the most part unregulated.

The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act bars lawsuits against gun manufacturers, with some exceptions. One is an exception for violating state or federal laws governing the marketing or sales of guns. That exception allowedparents of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to win a lawsuit against Remington Arms last year. The shooter, Adam Lanza, was 20, and his weapon was advertised as a way to reclaim one’s “man card.”

Decades ago, gun safety advocates worried about low-quality, cheap and plentiful guns called “Saturday night specials.” Today’s weapons are far more lethal, including an AR-15-style firearm called the “Urban Super Sniper.” An AR-15 is a semiautomatic, civilian version of a military weapon.

Gun manufacturers want to make money by getting the next generation interested in buying guns, but it’s not OK to put them in the hands of people too young to use them responsibly. If the manufacturers do, they need to be held liable for their behavior.

Military-style weapons in young civilian hands

In the race for market share, manufacturers decided to develop military-style weapons for citizens, and the more harmful they are, the better. The result: a citizenry increasingly armed with overtly military-style equipment.

When their weapons turn up at crime scenes, manufacturers should be forced to prove they did everything possible to prevent their guns from falling into the wrong hands. Marketing guns to individuals too young to own them would be a clear violation of that policy.

When a crime gun is recovered, authorities know who made it, unless it is a ghost gun, an untraceable weapon that can be assembled within 15 minutes with no serial numbers or printed on a 3-D printer. Ghost guns are now illegal in Illinois.

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Some efforts are underway to reduce violence from guns in the hands of young people.

In California, the state Assembly last week passed a bill opening manufacturers to civil liability for marketing firearms to children and others not legally allowed to possess them. Some U.S. senators are pushing for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the marketing of military-style firearms to children. Also, the legal age for buying a military-style assault weapon should be raised to 21, just as it is for a handgun.

This must be a national priority. We can’t stanch America’s bloody epidemic of gun violence overnight, but we can begin to rein it in, step by step.

Ending marketing of guns to young people is a step America should take right now.

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