The latest front in the war on parental rights: teaching your kids real gun safety

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

I’m always a little envious when I hear my friends talk about learning to shoot when they were kids. I didn’t grow up in a gun-owning household, and though my mom wasn’t anti-gun it was a topic that never really came up during my formative years. I certainly never had the experience of taking my first shots under the watchful eye of my mother or father, which is one reason why it was so important to me to give my kids their first lessons on gun safety.

Anti-gunners in Illinois are intent on making it difficult, if not impossible, for other parents to do the same. Legislation approved back in May and set to be signed into law any day by Gov. J.B. Pritzker would prohibit any attempt to “advertise, market, promote, design, or sell any firearm-related product in a manner that reasonably appears to support, recommend, or encourage persons under 18 years of age to unlawfully purchase or unlawfully possess or use a firearm-related product”.

I have five kids, and they all learned the basics of how to be safe and responsible with a firearm at different ages based on their maturity and interest level. While each of my kids’ experience was unique to them, the majority of them had their first lessons with a single-shot Crickett .22LR; one of the many firearms designed for junior shooters that are targeted under HB 218. Violations of the “Firearms Industry Responsibility Act” could result in tens of thousands of dollars in fines, open the door to civil litigation, and empower the state’s Attorney General to go after gun companies themselves.

Gun-rights advocates say the plan, which Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pledged to sign into law, is an unreasonably vague decree that violates not only the constitutionally protected right to own guns, but also free speech.

The prime exhibit in Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s effort is the JR-15, a smaller, lighter version of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle advertised with the tag line, “Get ’em One Like Yours.” The maker says it is deliberately made smaller, with added safety features, to fit younger shooters as they learn from adults how to safely maneuver such a weapon. Raoul says it’s marketed to children and potentially entices them to skip the adult supervision and start firing.

Opening the door to court challenges is part of ongoing efforts by Democratic lawmakers who control the Statehouse to eliminate gun violence, made more complicated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s expansion of gun rights a year ago. Pritzker also signed a ban on semi-automatic weapons this year, a law that gun-rights advocates continue to challenge in federal court.

Raoul finds precedent in the 25-year-old settlement with large tobacco companies and more recently with advertising for vaping.

“We’ve gone after the marketing that has historically driven up the consumption by minors for those products that are harmful to them,” Raoul said. “The firearms industry shouldn’t be immune to the standards that we put on other industries.”

Except that other industries don’t produce constitutionally protected products, counters the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade association that has filed federal lawsuits in nearly every state that has approved a similar law.

“They’re infringing on your Second Amendment rights by taking away your First Amendment rights,” foundation spokesperson Mark Oliva said.

No gun company is out there running ads encouraging minors to unlawfully acquire a gun, or to use one to commit a crime. If anything, social media and the juvenile justice system are the most egregious offenders in sending that message. In fact, in Illinois juveniles who are caught illegally possessing a gun can see their charges dropped entirely through the state’s First Time Weapons Offender program. What kind of message does that send troubled youth who are headed down the wrong path?

Instead of addressing the growing number of youthful offenders, Illinois lawmakers are seeking to prohibit the very guns meant to aid parents trying to educate their children how to be safe and responsible with a firearm. And they’re not alone. Other states including California have already adopted similar restrictions, while the Biden administration has been facing growing criticism over its decision to strip some federal funds from schools with archery and hunter ed programs.

The end game is clear: gun control activists talk all the time about wanting fewer guns, but we the people keep getting in their way; 48 straight months of more than 1-million gun sales, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. If adults keep embracing their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, then the left has to convince the next generation that those rights are unimportant or downright dangerous, and keeping kids away from real gun safety is one way to do it. Whether it’s banning the manufacture and marketing of arms and accessories for junior shooters or banning youth shooting sports altogether (as HD 4420 in Massachusetts would do for those under the age of 15), the anti-gunners are doing everything they can to prevent moms and dads around the country from passing on their knowledge, experience, and passion for the Second Amendment to their children. The prohibitionists are good at playing the long game, and in this case they’re trying to engineer a generational shift that they believe will make it easier to obliterate our Second Amendment rights forevermore.