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VPC Targets Parents
How the Group Seeks to Remove Parents
from Picture when Their Kids Access Guns

by Sean Oberle

December 19, 2001

If Violence Policy Center (VPC) has its way, you would be participating in a crime if you allow your child or teenager to possess even a .22 caliber rifle. No longer could you allow your 17-year-old to practice at the range or hunt squirrel, much less do anything with a higher caliber rifle or a shotgun.

In its latest propaganda -- A .22 for Christmas: How the Firearm Industry Markets Firearms for Children and Youth -- VPC attempts to demonize any involvement by youth with firearms, even under parental supervision, and it concludes:

“Federal law already … bars the purchase of long guns by those under 18. The Violence Policy Center recommends that federal law should be simplified to make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy or possess a long gun.”

Do not think that VPC would be satisfied with a law that outlawed possession by a minor except when accompanied by a parent or guardian. Indeed, the propaganda sheet’s focus is to demonize the idea of parents introducing their offspring to firearms as part of a gun industry marketing conspiracy.

This latest propaganda sheet is filled with many citations of firearms experts suggesting that children be taught to shoot or hunt and of advertisements of firearms made specifically for children. VPC juxtaposes these suggestions and ads with examples of shootings involving youth who received firearm or hunting training from their parents, including one of the boys in the Jonesboro school shooting. It also cites the numbers under 18 killed with firearms each year as if it were connected to parents introducing their children to firearms.

I’m sure you are ahead of me on VPC’s logical fallacies: The group attempts to imply a correlation that does not exist -- one between gun experience among youth and gun deaths among youth. There is no such correlation. For centuries, youth possessed and used guns at higher levels than they do now, but the rates of death were much lower. If anything, the correlation is that the less the experience, the higher the death rates.

Regardless, VPC’s proposal would not eliminate access to guns by minors. As long as guns are available to adults in the United States, they will be available to youth as well, no matter what the law says. The only way to eliminate youth access is to successfully eliminate possession in general, not just by minors. That will not happen anytime soon even if we were to stand out of the way. Indeed, while VPC openly calls for a total handgun ban, even this extremist group does not call openly for a total long gun ban (yet).

Rather, VPC’s proposal would eliminate parental involvement in that access. Contrary to VPC’s portrayal, it is not parents taking their daughters hunting or teaching their sons about gun safety that creates kids’ primary fascination with firearms. 

In fact, typically, a kid has that fascination long before mom or dad introduces him or her to hunting or shooting. That fascination comes from many places, including the movies, toys, video games, their peers and children’s natural worship of seemingly exciting jobs like police or military work. Unlike the case of parental involvement, some of those sources create unhealthy attitudes about guns.

Not only is VPC offering a half-baked, politically motivated non-solution to a real problem -- kids dying of gunshot -- it seeks laws that would make that worse in the reality of modern America … a law that would have the affect of criminalizing parental involvement in their kids access to guns.

Sean Oberle is a Featured Writer and gun control analyst for Reach him at View other articles from him at

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