Unlike a lot of gun owners, I didn’t grow up with parents who were staunch Second Amendment supporters or even gun owners themselves, so I don’t have any fond memories of my mom or dad teaching me how to shoot. I do, however, remember teaching my own kids how to be safe and responsible with a firearm with a single shot .22LR Crickett rifle designed for junior shooters; one that still resides in my gun safe despite the fact that my kids have long outgrown the smaller size. I’ll keep that rifle for as long as I’m still breathing, and one day may even get the chance to give a grandkid or two their first lessons on real gun safety.
The gun control lobby is well aware that teaching the next generation about their Second Amendment rights and responsibilities cuts against their mission to eradicate gun ownership, and over the past few years they’ve made a concerted effort to go after youth shooting sports. A California law ostensibly meant to prohibit the marketing of firearms to kids is already facing a federal court challenge, but lawmakers in Illinois are still following suit by passing their own legislation aimed at youth shooting sports by threatening gun makers with civil liability if they “promote, design, or sell any firearm-related product in a manner that reasonably appears to support, recommend, or encourage persons under 18 years of age to unlawfully purchase or possess or use a firearm-related product in Illinois.”
On the surface, that provision may seem innocuous. After all, who’s out there encouraging minors to illegally buy or possess a firearm? But a closer look at the legislative language reveals some devilish details that could easily chill youth shooting sports across the state.
(A) In determining whether the conduct of a firearm industry member, as described in this paragraph, reasonably appears to support, recommend, or encourage persons under 18 years of age to unlawfully purchase a firearm-related product, a court shall consider the totality of the circumstances, including, but not limited to, whether the marketing, advertising promotion, design, or sale:
(i) uses caricatures that reasonably appear to be minors or cartoon characters;
(ii) offers brand name merchandise for minors, including, but not limited to, clothing, toys, games, or stuffed animals, that promotes a firearm industry member or firearm-related product;
(iii) offers firearm-related products in sizes, colors, or designs that are specifically designed to be used by, or appeal to, minors; (iv) is part of a marketing, advertising, or promotion campaign designed with the intent to appeal to minors;
(v) uses images or depictions of minors in advertising or marketing, or promotion materials, to depict the use of firearm-related products; or
(vi) is placed in a publication created for the purpose of reaching an audience that is predominantly composed of minors and not intended for a more general audience composed of adults.
That single shot .22 rifle I used to teach my kids would seem to be a violation of HB 218 since the rifle is designed to be used by minors. In fact, lawmakers specifically called out the makers of the JR-15; a youth-sized .22 semi-automatic rifle that’s raised the ire of anti-gun activists since it was first unveiled in 2022.
“One of the key components of this is to prevent marketing to children,” said Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate. He held up an ad from the company Wee 1 Tactical, maker of the JR-15 rifle, a gun that resembles an AR-15 rifle but is smaller and lighter, making it easier for children to fire.
“This is how people are marketing guns to our children,” he said. “I don’t think the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act should allow that unchecked.”
No kid is buying a JR-15, and I’d say that any marketing of the JR-15 is aimed at parents, not children. But under SB 218, gun makers who design products like the JR-15, Crickett rifles, or any other firearm meant for youth shooters could be sued for supposedly marketing their guns to kids.
If Pritzker does put pen to paper, look for a slew of lawsuits to follow on the heels of his decision. Illinois may have a problem with juvenile offenders illegally getting hold of guns, but if the state wants to take meaningful action they should be targeting the parents of those kids, not the firearms industry, youth shooting sports, or the responsible gun owners who are teaching their own kids to take their first shots safely and responsibly.