A picture of a young girl holding a pink AR-15 appeared in Rolling Stone last month. The girl, Morrigan Sanders (daughter of Baen author Michael Z. Williamson), was much younger when that photo was taken, but she’s still a gun nut.
The problem: Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson’s accompanying article is titled “The Gun Industry’s Deadly Addiction,” and he never contacted Morrigan for comment. Rolling Stone did not violate any law by using the photo — they purchased it from the photographer — but Dickinson was perhaps unaware that Morrigan is something of an Internet icon, with hundreds of photos of her and her signature pink AR all over the Internet. She is also well-informed and capable of challenging the gun-control agenda.
Now 15 years old, looking forward to a career in acting or perhaps music, Morrigan told PJ Media that she appreciated the publicity but that Dickinson wrote a terrible piece to accompany her picture:
Great picture, bad article. … It was doing what media often does, laying it all on one-sided, and not necessarily having the best writing. The writing was the largest problem for me. When I saw it, it seemed to me that it had many inaccuracies, was biased, and not supported by sources. I was more worried about the fact he only had his opinion, rather than the opposition’s opinion as well.
Her father agreed — he was not so much angry, but amused:
They made so many assumptions about young and female shooters, and implied a stereotype. Great to see liberal tolerance in action. The biggest problem is it was wrong. I would have rewritten it to be factual, informative, sourced, and non-bigoted against shooters and women.
Rolling Stone appears to have used the picture of Sanders because the argument the article makes is akin to the one used to move public opinion against the tobacco industry: namely, the industry is marketing directly to kids and women. Per Dickinson:
To goose future growth, the gun industry is aggressively marketing guns to children as young as the first-graders slaughtered in Newtown. “By the time kids are in fifth grade, or even before, they’re already being pulled away by the allure of video games, organized sports or other activities,” said Bud Pidgeon, president of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, which along with the National Rifle Association and three other prominent gun groups oversees Families Afield. In less than a decade, Families Afield has pushed more than 30 states to jettison regulations that protect kids from guns — removing age restrictions on hunting licenses or no longer requiring that children take a gun-safety course before going hunting with Dad.
Rolling Stone also noted that there are magazines dedicated to young shooters, and programs specifically for them. The obvious problem with Dickinson’s argument: children do not and cannot purchase firearms legally. Their parents must do it for them. When a child takes up shooting, typically the parent is a shooter introducing the activity to the child — no advertising can bypass the parental supervision. Matching the typical experience of most kids who shoot, Morrigan didn’t get a gun because she was “targeted” by the gun industry to adopt an “addiction.” Her father gave her one and taught her to use it:
I was four and [Williamson] gave me my first single-shot .22, I had a lot of fun shooting it. I understand how a gun works — knowing its weak points, strong points, the ways you use it helps. It has given me a respect for guns.
Her favorite weapon now is a heavy-caliber revolver, also given to her by her father:
[It is a] second model Smith & Wesson made in 1916 in .45 Long Colt, originally in .455 Webley British during World War One. I love the feel in my hands and it has a nice level of kick to it. Mine also has great action and it just had its 96-year tune-up.
Williamson points out that not all children are ready for a gun that young: indeed, he did not see the proper level of maturity in his son Eric until later, and kept guns out of his hands until later:
It’s different for every child. My son wasn’t really ready until seven.
She expressed an interest and was able, with supervision, to behave safely on the range. She treats guns and other tools with respect and doesn’t play around with them. This is also noticeable as she learns to drive. She’s cautious, thoughtful, and thinks ahead.
Rolling Stone also accused the gun industry of targeting women as well as children, yet the obvious sexist infantilization of adult women present in such a charge went unanswered in the article. Rolling Stone:
To target urban and suburban women, gunmakers have adopted a two-pronged marketing strategy. One: Feminizing the weapons by dressing them up in hot pink. Two: Marketing powerful guns to women as the only surefire protection against sexual and violent predators. Shooting Industry Magazine publishes a column called “Arms and the Woman,” which advises that “every gun store should have at least one pink gun on display.” This is a crowded field: Sig Sauer offers a ladies’ version of its conceal-carry “Mosquito” pistol with a “pink-coated polymer frame” that it calls “the ideal choice for hours of shooting fun.” In a similar vein, GunGoddess.com sells a kit to trick out an assault weapon with a pink hand guard, pistol grip and butt stock – transforming an AR-15 into something that looks like it belongs at a Hello Kitty convention.
Morrigan took particular issue with the prior passage:
[The article is] implying that women can’t decide for themselves whether or not they should own a gun, and that the industry can manipulate people to own a gun. I think he should’ve gotten the opinion of women who shoot first, instead of making a blanket statement that isn’t true. … Industries can market to the public but have no real way to force others to buy their product.