Scanning Around With Gene: Kids and Guns

For reasons best left to psychologists’ speculation, young kids, especially boys, seem predisposed to want to shoot things. I spent a good many hours in my youth playing army, cowboys and Indians, and other games involving play firearms.
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that my dad took me to a shooting range and let me fire a real gun. I had grown up with guns in the house and had been taught, from a very early age, to respect them and stay away from them when unsupervised. And fortunately, I did.
Today’s images are from gun advertisements and promotional booklets meant for young people, and are mostly from the 1960s. Click on any image for a larger version.

I’m not sure at what age it’s appropriate to introduce kids to firearms, and I think a lot has to do with the environment (city vs. country, etc.). But given that at least one gun is present in 40% of American households with children, it’s clearly something many parents have to, or should, confront.

I suspect that if you’re going to have guns around and you have kids, education is a much better option than simply trying to keep the two apart. Kids have a knack for getting into things they aren’t supposed to, and the statistics on accidental shootings are grim. A combination of access restriction and education is undoubtedly the safest route.

So obviously much of the shooting-related material I found that was aimed at young people focuses on safety and the various “codes” that define proper gun ownership. From cartoon characters to “wise” adults, safety messages are prominent.

I was a city boy, and guns were an extremely rare sight. There were no neighborhood shooting clubs and none of my friends had guns.

My dad, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania and learned to shoot at a very early age, couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more interested in guns.

I don’t know if gun manufacturers still market guns specifically to young people. If for no other reason, insurance liability may have put an end to such practices.

But for those kids who are truly interested, a healthy exposure to firearms seems prudent.

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Gene Gable has spent a lifetime in publishing, editing and the graphic arts and is currently a technology consultant and writer. He has spoken at events around the world and has written extensively on graphic design, intellectual-property rights, and publishing production in books and for magazines such as Print, U&lc, ID, Macworld, Graphic Exchange, AGI, and The Seybold Report. Gene's interest in graphic design history and letterpress printing resulted in his popular columns "Heavy Metal Madness" and "Scanning Around with Gene" here on
  • Anonymous says:

    Sure they still market guns to kids, and guns are more agressively marketed to women as well. Almost every company has a line of ‘petite’ guns sized for smaller frames and there are several lines of pink firearms out there.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ah, the Good Old Days. And here we are in the Age of Liability. Where did we go so wrong that, back in the day, boys (and a few girls, presumably) could handle actual guns responsibly, but these days we fear that even playing violent video games is making kids violent?

    The only thing missing is a Daisy Red Ryder ad. Just bought one for our kids, to begin the “healthy respect” lesson. Another great article, Gene. Keep ’em coming!

  • Anonymous says:

    >Just bought one for our kids, to begin the “healthy respect” lesson

    I just bought my son one too, so he can shoot first any MF that walks up to him…

  • Anonymous says:

    It really boils down to several things: treating guns with the respect they deserve, following common sense safety, and introducing a child to guns early, and removing the innate curiosity that comes with a fear-based reaction to them.
    I grew up in a small town out West, my father hunted and fished, and I shot my first deer at age 12 — I am in my mid-30’s, and have several firearms myself, and hunt all fall, every year. NEVER in the 24 years that I have hunted and handled firearms has there been an issue or accident.
    I was taught from day one, NEVER to play with a gun, and if I wanted to see it, shoot it, etc., I asked my father. Period. This developed a sense of value on the gun, the process, and the respect I gave it didn’t make it a toy to me, but something to take seriously, but was still very fun and rewarding to shoot and hunt with. WIth it came the skill of marksmanship.
    Maybe in today’s instant gratification, now-now-now world, that concept is a bit dated, but I still think guns are good, guns are fun, and kids and guns can, and do, mix. Too often the parents of kids are from a non-gun family, and they treat them initially with outright fear, and the thought of little Tommy or Mary shooting a gun freaks them out. To them I recommend doing it right, and let them shoot one. The alternative is a poor one; having them figure it out on their own when they are 17 or 18, from a friend who doesn’t know his bolt action from a choke tube.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am averse to what some of us call “the gun culture” but I was glad to see this material, which illuminates the history of it in the not-so-recent past.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don’t think kids should use guns without supervision. Someone needs to teach him how to fire..

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for taking the time to round up these great, old ads, Gene. I’m 60+ and can’t remember when guns weren’t in our home. I learned to shoot pellet guns and a .22 as soon as I was big enough to hold them. Hell, we took them to school in some places we lived (Dad was career Air Force so I attended a lot of different schools).

    Kids don’t really need to be taught “how to fire” a gun. Anybody can do it — just point and pull the trigger. However, kids (and adults these days) need to learn the when, where, and why of safe shooting.

    As for our “gun culture,” just remember, folks, that if not for the wide availability of firearms, the USA could never have enforced its Declaration of Independence from Britain.

  • Anonymous says:

    I had a Daisy “Winchester 1894” BB gun as a kid. I had a sling for it and it went with me on all my bike rides, even to the store to pick up a loaf of break for my mom. This was back in San Antonio in the early to mid 60s and no one batted an eye about it.

    When I graduated to a .22, my mom took me to Lackland AFB for an NRA class in markmanship. My uncle gave me a .410 for Christmas.

    I’ve added a few more powerful weapons now, but I love my guns. I only wish Mattel had made a “Tactical Barbie” back then, but now I can get a pink AK! How cool is that??

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