Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Op-Ed in the WSJ today

I'm a gun owner. I was in a gun shop and shooting range last week. A man came in with his daughter who looked no more than 8 years old. She quickly spotted a pink handgun on display. She was convinced that it was a toy and told her father that she wanted to hold it. I asked the sales clerk if this was common, and he said that kids always think the pink guns are toys. See the full article in the WSJ

That was apparently the case on Feb. 1, when a 3-year-old boy in Greenville, S.C., was killed with a handgun kept in the house by his mother. Police said that Tmorej Smith and his 7-year-old sister had been playing with the handgun. It was pink. The investigators said that the kids thought it was a toy.
As a businessman who makes children's toys, I am appalled by this aspect of the firearms industry. Toymakers are extremely regulated, and for good reason—no one wants kids to get hurt. In the case of toy guns, manufacturers since the late 1980s have been required by federal law to use distinctive "blaze orange" barrel plugs or markings to ensure that the toys are not mistaken for the real thing. I don't make toy guns, but I certainly understand the rule: There were too many tragic stories involving young people killed by someone who mistook the child's toy for a loaded weapon.
Let me get this straight: Children are not allowed to have toy guns that look like the real thing, but adults are allowed to have the real thing that looks like a toy? That has got to change. This isn't about "gun control," it's about something closer to simple decency.
Colorful handguns and even semiautomatic rifles are part of a marketing effort to get firearms in the hands of women and younger buyers. The effort has paid off. In a survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 73% of gun dealers said sales to female customers had risen in 2011. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, women's participation in shooting sports has surged by more than 50% for target shooting in the past decade and by more than 40% for hunting.
But if guns and kids are a dangerous combination, then fetching colors and a 9mm handgun is a potential disaster. A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine that found 39% of kids in gun-owner households knew where their parents' guns were stored, and 22% said they had handled the weapons despite adults' warnings not to. Age was not a factor in whether children had handled the guns. Five-year-olds were just as likely to report doing so as 14-year-olds.
The website recently reported that "pink guns are flying off the shelves at gun stores." As a business owner, I get it. Pink guns sell, and this is why the manufacturers keep producing them. It makes business sense. But what about responsibility as corporate citizens?
Mr. Power is the founder and president of Wild Creations Inc. in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
A version of this article appeared March 7, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Pink Guns, but Not Cute.

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