Hold gun manufacturers accountable for marketing dangerous guns to young people

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

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

In a Buffalo supermarket, 10 dead, three injured. In a primary school in Uvalde, 21 dead, 17 injured. In Chicago, 51 bullets, nine deaths.

The suspected Buffalo shooter is 18; just like Uvalde’s shooter. In Chicago, many shooters of the past were teenagers. As a nation, we should have zero tolerance for efforts to entice young people into obtaining deadly weapons.

Days before the fatal 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 used images of toddlers to promote gun ownership, said former Illinois state senator Dan Kotowski, president of One Aim, a gun safety group.

“They try to start with the very young,” Kotowski said. “That’s their intention.”

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

Not one.

A manufacturer selling teddy bears must follow rules to avoid sharp edges, loose ends, and flammability. The idea is to make sure the teddy bears are safe and not dangerous. But guns can be as dangerous as manufacturers want to make them. The industry is mostly unregulated.

The Protection of the Legal Arms Trade Act 2005 prohibits lawsuits against gun manufacturers, with some exceptions. One is an exception for violation of state or federal laws governing the marketing or sale of firearms. This exception allowed parents 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 gun was advertised as a way to get his “man card” back.

Decades ago, gun safety advocates worried about low-quality, cheap, and plentiful guns called “Saturday Night Specials.” Today’s weapons are much more deadly, including an AR-15 type firearm called the “Urban Super Sniper”. An AR-15 is a semi-automatic civilian version of a military weapon.

Gunmakers want to make money by getting the next generation to buy guns, but putting them in the hands of people too young to use them responsibly is not acceptable. If manufacturers do so, they should be held accountable 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 the better. The result: a population increasingly armed with military-grade equipment.

When their guns end up at crime scenes, manufacturers should be required to prove that they have done everything possible to prevent their guns from falling into the wrong hands. Marketing firearms to people too young to own would be a clear violation of this policy.

When a gun is recovered, authorities know who made it, unless it’s a ghost gun, an untraceable weapon that can be assembled in 15 minutes without a serial number or printed on a 3D printer. Ghost guns are now illegal in Illinois.

Efforts are underway to reduce gun violence in the hands of young people.

In California, the state Assembly last week passed a bill opening up civil liability for manufacturers for marketing firearms to children and others not legally permitted to possess them. Some US senators are pushing for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the marketing of military-style firearms to children. In addition, the legal age to purchase a military-style assault weapon should be raised to 21, just like for a handgun.

It must be a national priority. We can’t stem the bloody epidemic of gun violence in the United States overnight, but we can begin to bring it under control, step by step.

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

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