The Blog

It's Not Just Gun Owners Who Need to Down Their Weapons, But Their Children Too

It's the daughters and sons of gun owners that need to be kept an eye on; they're the ones most at risk of being killed in a massacre, or being the cause of one.

President Barack Obama and vice president Joe Biden will announce today a package of gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. But even with greater bipartisan support than previous reforming administrations have enjoyed, Obama has his work cut out pushing legislation through. He is taking on a pro-gun lobby that has been successfully persuading owners to arm their children at ever-earlier ages, ensuring the next generation of enthusiasts to guard the Second Amendment and keep the multi-million dollar gun industry primed.

I've seen the many faces of the pro-gun lobby first-hand. Around four years ago I worked on a documentary about parents busy raising the next generation of the NRA, and saw some pretty weird ways of engaging small children with big fire power.

But my first surprise was how open and proud people were of their gun collections. As I cast my net across America to find people to take part in the film, my inbox would daily be refilled with pictures of gun cupboards stuffed to the rafters with weapon hauls equal to something I'd last seen in a 1980s Steven Seagal action flick.

But nothing could have prepared for me for what we saw on our roadtrip across America's gunbelt. "Tell me Cat, that you honestly would not feel safer in the cinema with me sat with my gun next to you", said Big Don in Virginia, refusing to believe that people in the UK were basically ok not having to wonder if the person next to them was packing a pistol under their popcorn.

A middle-class white guy, successful in his career and with little to fear, Don was terrified of the world and what it might do his wife and eight children. It was not just his right, but his duty to bear arms, and he was damned sure all his children were going to believe the same thing. He'd adapted guns for each of his kids. One daughter had a pink handgun, another had a rifle adapted with a laser sight to adjust for her lazy eye. Over 30 guns were kept in a vault, in a room next to the schoolroom in the cellar. He was raising a small army, ready to do battle. The family even had a secret, well-practised emergency escape routine incase Armageddon should strike their sleepy suburb.

Don scared me more than huntin' and fishin' Scott in Kansas, even though his first email had included a picture of his four-year-old daughter sitting laughing on the couch, clutching a rifle. They kept 70 guns all over the house, including a case in the kids' bedroom. Two of his five kids were even named after guns. He levelled with me, "we just like blowing the hell outta things." The eldest three, all under ten, had their own pistols. His nine year old daughter had just been presented with a shotgun to assist her excellent hunting skills.

I spoke to a Wisconsin-based pro-Israel organisation flogging cookie cutters in the shape of guns. I attended an Introduction to Guns course for four-nine year olds which culminated in seeing the delegates trying to shoot at targets while not being flung across the range from the force of the gun, held into place by their proud parents.

I spent hours on the phone to perfect Southern gentleman Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America. He's most notable for falling out with Piers Morgan during a live telephone interview before Christmas, prompting a petition for the British journalist to be repatriated. Larry told me he believed not just in arming schoolteachers, but letting students take their guns in too.

As political figures from the left and right come together to tighten gun laws, they are taking on a pro-gun culture deeply entrenched in this generation and the next.

Last Thursday, Biden, who led a panel appointed by Obama to examine gun control measures after the Newtown shootings, met with the NRA as part of his consultation. Later that day, the organisation released a press statement opposing his proposals. It rejected any ideas to restrict the sale or use of firearms, preferring to keep children safe through the militarisation of the playground.

In this statement, the NRA referenced its membership of "four million moms and dads, daughters and sons who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again." Since the tragedy, the NRA has reported a surge in membership and donations. It's the daughters and sons that need to be kept an eye on; they're the ones most at risk of being killed in a massacre, or being the cause of one.