Call for ban on sale of gun magazines to children

Posted on the 28th August 2012

A campaign to ban the sale of gun magazines to children has been launched by Britain’s largest animal rights group, Animal Aid.

Among those backing the initiative is the respected criminologist and public policy expert, Professor Peter Squires of the University of Brighton.

Across the country, in high street newsagents such as WHSmith, and on supermarket shelves, children have easy access to publications that encourage and even celebrate the killing of animals for ‘sport’. Shooters are featured posing boastfully alongside animals they have just slaughtered. Grinning young children are also shown holding up or standing over shot pheasants, rabbits, foxes and pigeons (1).

A new Animal Aid report, called Gunning For Children: How the gun lobby recruits young blood, argues that such lurid, pro-violence content could have a corrosive, long-lasting effect on impressionable young minds. It calls for the publications to be consigned to ‘top shelf’ positions, and for a ban on their sale to under 18s. This would bring them in line with tobacco products and with publications with an explicit sexual content.

Animal Aid supporters will soon start leafleting outside WHSmith branches throughout the UK, calling on shoppers to back an age restriction.

Cutting off children’s access to gun magazines – which act as front-line propagandists for ‘sport shooting’ – could deal a serious blow to a gun lobby that is desperate to recruit youngsters to counter a declining constituency. Government figures show that the number of shotgun certificate holders in England and Wales has fallen at a significant rate for more than 20 years. And the gun lobby’s own research demonstrates that if people do not learn to shoot by the age of 14 the chances of them subsequently getting involved rapidly diminish.

Says Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at the University of Brighton: 

‘It seems imperative that shooting magazines celebrating the… “casual cruelty” of shooting wild animals – a kind of “shooting porn” – should not be on sale to children and young people (under 18) and that shops and retail outlets selling such magazines should position them both out of reach and sight of children and young people.

‘… it also strikes me as appropriate that organisations committed to the shooting of live animals for “sport” and “fun” should not be offered opportunities to promote their activities in schools or (more generally) with youth organisations. Above all, fostering healthy and environmentally-conscious attitudes to nature and wildlife conservation is fundamentally inconsistent with deriving pleasure and enjoyment from shooting animals for fun. (2)

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘The aim of Animal Aid’s top shelf campaign is to restrict the blood supply to a gun lobby that sees its core constituency slipping away and is desperate for young recruits. It knows that if children are not captured young, the chances of them picking up a weapon in later years rapidly decrease.

‘Children who kill animals for sport in urban areas are considered dysfunctional and a social menace. Yet, Britain has a gun lobby, composed of well-connected groups such as the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Countryside Alliance (CA), that devotes considerable resources towards encouraging children to take up guns at a young age (3). Their actions are damaging not just to wildlife but also to the emotional development of young people.’

Download 'Gunning For Children: How the gun lobby recruits young blood'

More information

  • For further information and interviews, contact Andrew Tyler on 01732 364 546. An ISDN line is available.

Notes to Editors

    An Animal Aid snapshot survey of 16 towns and cities across England and Wales showed that, among magazine retailers, WH Smith sold the widest variety of shooting publications and that most were easily accessible by children and even, in some cases, by toddlers. Just one of the WH Smiths in the survey positioned the magazines on the top shelf. At randomly selected towns, we found that newsagent Martin McColl also stocked a range of shooting magazines, which were out of reach of children at some locations but not at others. Of the supermarkets, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose were found to sell pro-shooting publications, whereas only one surveyed Sainsbury’s store had just one shooting publication on sale. None of the Co-op supermarkets we visited had any such periodicals.
  2. More support for Animal Aid’s campaign comes from Jeffrey Masson, bestselling author of nine books on the emotional lives of animals, including When Elephants Weep, which has been translated into 20 languages. Masson trained as a Freudian analyst and was the Project Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives. He told Animal Aid: ‘I find the whole idea of encouraging young people to shoot animals for pleasure completely insane and, believe me, I rarely use the word insane.’
    Chris Williamson MP also endorses our goals: ‘Regrettably, there are some in our society who still believe there is a place for guns to be kept for what they deem as “sport”. They argue that it is acceptable to kill animals for fun and then try to convince the rest of us that they are providing a valuable rural pest control service or, more galling still, insist that it is part of countryside culture. The truth is that the vast majority of people living in rural areas are as sickened as I am by killing animals for fun. The despicable fabrications of the gun-toting minority simply do not stand up to scrutiny. Everyone who opposes wanton violence must do all they can to stop this destructive activity from spreading any further. One important way we can do this is to demand that newsagents stop the sale to children of magazines that promote the killing of animals for sport. In fact, such magazines should be consigned to the top shelf out of reach of young people.’
  3. Between them, the CA and BASC organise shooting lessons for youngsters, produce educational materials for schools, and even encourage sympathetic parents to become school governors in order to ‘educate the educators’. Among the gun lobby’s major political triumphs is its success in resisting moves to restrict the age at which children can pick up a shotgun and use it to kill animals for ‘sport’. A child of any age can legally do so. In fact, there is no minimum age to acquire a shotgun certificate.

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