Today, the Washington Post published a piece highlighting a new product from Culper Precision, a Utah based gun company, that customizes firearms with Legos, or knock-off aftermarket bricks. With unintentional shootings by children on the rise since the pandemic and children at home during the summer, having a firearm that looks like a toy is unacceptable. Research shows that children will play with firearms even if they don’t look like toys and despite being talked to about gun safety.
The company reversed course only after public pressure from Everytown and Moms Demand Action, a cease and desist letter from the Lego company, and intrepid reporting from the Washington Post.
From the piece [emphasis added]:
“‘There is a satisfaction that can ONLY be found in the shooting sports and this is just one small way to break the rhetoric from Anti-Gun folks and draw attention to the fact that the shooting sports are SUPER FUN!’the site proclaimed, exuding a bravado that would prove to be short-lived. “Here’s the thing. Guns are fun. Shooting is fun. 30 rounds full auto is fun.’
When Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, first saw the image, she thought it was ‘sick and that children would die. Responsible gun owners should be appalled by this,’ she said, and as it turns out, some of them were.’
Instead, [Brandon Scott, president of Culper] was fulfilling a childhood fantasy for his adult customers, referencing in his conversation with the blog how the customization mimicked the “pretend guns” people made “out of the Legos you got from Santa.”
Scott told The Washington Post that before announcing his idea, he’d considered that children might think the altered guns are toys, but it didn’t dissuade him. He and his three children play with Lego blocks, and in his home, he keeps all of his guns locked up, something that he expects every other gun owner to do as well — an expectation divorced from reality.”
A lawyer, he said, told him the toy giant [Lego] might have a case against his company if he kept offering BLOCK19. Scott, who wouldn’t reveal exactly how many he’d already sold but said it was fewer than 20, decided to comply.”
Over the last year, with the spike in both gun sales and gun violence, more children have been put in situations where they can gain access to firearms, putting them at risk of unintentional shootings, gun suicide, and gun violence on school grounds. Research from the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the research and education arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, shows that to protect children and teens, gun owners should store guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition.
Between March and December of 2020, there was a 31 percent increase in unintentional shooting deaths by children of themselves or others, compared to the same time period in 2019. So far this year, there have been more than 165 incidents where a child under the age of 18 has gained access to a firearm and unintentionally shot themselves or someone else.
In just the last week, there have been multiple unintentional shootings by children throughout the country including:
- In the Chula Vista, Calif. area, there were two separate unintentional shootings, one in which a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed, and one in which a 15-year-old boy was shot and is in critical condition.
- In Manitou Springs, Colo., a 4-year-old boy found an unsecured firearm in a car and unintentionally shot himself fatally.
- In Goodlettsville, Tenn., an 8-year-old boy was unintentionally shot and killed.
- In Sayre, Okla., a 5-year-old boy was unintentionally shot and killed while in a parked vehicle.
- In Jackson, Miss., a 1-year-old boy was unintentionally shot and killed by a 14-year-old, the third child killed by gun violence in Central Mississippi since June.
Across the country, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers have been advocating for secure storage legislation. Currently, nine states have passed secure storage laws including Oregon, Colorado, and Maine during the 2021 legislative session. Secure storage is a proven way to cut down on unintentional shootings, gun suicides, and school shootings.
Even without the passage of secure storage laws, these shootings can be prevented by following simple steps to secure guns and keep them inaccessible to children. Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Moms Demand Action have developed the Be SMART program, a public education campaign, to help parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries.
Additional information about unintentional shootings by children is here. If you are interested in speaking with a policy or research expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.