New Report, UnTargeting Kids: Protecting Children from Harmful Firearm Marketing, Exposes How the Firearm Industry Aggressively Markets Guns Towards Kids
NEWTOWN, Conn. – Sandy Hook Promise is launching a new advocacy campaign exposing how firearm marketing is reaching youth with “R-rated” content. To illustrate these deceptive marketing practices, the organization released a new report, UnTargeting Kids: Protecting Children from Harmful Firearm Marketing.
Drawing from documents uncovered from the lawsuit against Remington Arms brought by some of the families impacted by the Sandy Hook tragedy, as well as insights from research across marketing, psychology and gun violence, UnTargeting Kids reveals the concerning trend of gun marketers sharing R-rated, hyper-aggressive, and hyper-sexualized content directly with children under 18 to promote the illegal and violent use of military-style weapons.
View the report: UnTargeting Kids: Protecting Children from Harmful Firearm Marketing
“It is time for us to acknowledge that the way firearms are marketed to youth is contributing to the prevalence of mass violence in America,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “Our kids are being served violent R-rated content on guns – across platforms, from ads to influencers. We know that all parents share in our concern of protecting children from anything that might harm them, and that many parents are not aware of the ads their children are seeing. We helped bring the lawsuit against Remington because we wanted to draw attention to these practices and change the way firearms are marketed.”
In launching this campaign, Sandy Hook Promise plans to educate and engage parents on how they can help end some of the most egregious examples of this kind of marketing.
“Our kids are too young to drive, vote, drink alcohol, serve in the military, or legally purchase a firearm under federal law. And yet, they are receiving deceptive and aggressive messages about firearms through marketing loopholes, social media influencers, and video games,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “All parents – gun owners and non-gun owners alike – can agree that kids should not be the targets of firearm marketing, especially when using content designed for adults that should only be viewed by adults. The responsibility falls on us all – parents, legislators, business leaders, and marketing professionals alike – to better understand the clear connection between gun marketing and gun violence, so that we can move forward and create sensible protections.”
Over the last decade, the firearm industry has intentionally targeted youth with emotionally aggressive militarized marketing – intentionally naming “youth” as a key target audience in marketing briefs, discussing a “window of opportunity” to build consumer loyalty before they turn 16. As gun marketing transitioned from selling firearms for traditional hunting and sporting purposes to more violent, military-style marketing – to kids – so did our nation start to experience a tremendous spike in firearm deaths. Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S.
The UnTargeting Kids report delves into how gun manufacturers market their products to youth under age 18, and why kids are uniquely susceptible to these marketing messages. Among the key highlights:
- From hunting and sporting to military-grade combat: UnTargeting Kids examines the specific marketing messages and tactics gun manufacturers are using across print, social media, TV and movies, and video games to reach children, including messages about how powerful you can feel with a military-grade weapon, or how sexually attractive you can be, as well as shocking ads featuring boy and girl skulls with pacifiers, reminiscent of the infamous Joe Camel and Marlboro Man cartoons.
- Youth susceptibility: Kids are not just little adults. Young people are biologically more vulnerable to advertising, and more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behavior. Marketers prey on this knowledge, but now with the kinds of messages that are particularly dangerous for at-risk youth.
- The influencer loophole: While social media channels ban the direct sales of firearms on their platforms, they allow influencers paid by the firearm industry to share posts promoting guns – an enormous loophole that makes the direct bans of marketing firearms on social media all but useless.
Dr Jillian Peterson, an expert on mass shooters said, “Social media content that suggests that a military-style weapon will make a teenager powerful or attractive to beautiful women can be a dangerous message to a vulnerable teenager.”
How To Protect Children From Harmful Firearm Marketing
Working together, we can advocate to protect kids from the type of irresponsible firearm marketing that is currently reaching them:
- Push for more research: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) need to begin researching how firearm marketing is linked to our nation’s gun violence epidemic.
- Demand that the firearm industry take action: The firearm industry has the ability to correct-course, self-regulate, and stop marketing to kids. Sandy Hook Promise has introduced Responsible Marketing Guidelines that gun manufacturers and media platforms hosting marketing can and should uphold.
- Push for stronger regulatory reform: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF) has the responsibility to regulate the firearm industry’s deceptive marketing practices.
- Ask Congress to take action: If self-policing and regulatory action fail, Congress needs to pass legislation that prohibits marketing of firearms to children and adolescents under the legal age of purchasing a firearm.
- Speak out: Sign the petition urging the firearm industry and social media industry to end the use of harmful marketing practices toward underage consumers.
UnTargeting Kids is the latest campaign from Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that unites all people who value the protection of children. Since its inception, Sandy Hook Promise has been at the forefront of developing a comprehensive, holistic approach to prevent gun violence – focusing on community-based education and empowerment. The organization’s innovative, no-cost programs – which have been implemented in more than 26,000 schools across the country, reaching 21 million people – effectively teach youth and adults how to prevent school shootings, violence, and other harmful acts. As a result, Sandy Hook Promise has averted at least 15 credible planned school shooting attacks, prevented 185 attempts of violence with a weapon, and saved more than 500 young lives from suicide.
This is only the beginning of a series of actions Sandy Hook Promise will drive to end the marketing of firearms to kids. To learn more and take action, visit https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/untargetingkids.
Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) envisions a future where all children are free from school shootings and other acts of violence. As a national nonprofit organization, SHP’s mission is to educate and empower youth and adults to prevent violence in schools, homes, and communities. Creators of the life-saving, evidence-informed “Know the Signs” prevention programs, SHP teaches the warning signs of someone who may be in crisis, socially isolated, or at-risk of hurting themselves or others and how to get help. SHP also advances school safety, youth mental health, and responsible gun ownership at the state and federal levels through nonpartisan policy and partnerships. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646-761-5579