The NRA promotes its Second Amendment-absolutist views to children as young as kindergarteners.
Essays on "What the Second Amendment Means To You" can win $1,000 prizes for kids in grades K-12.
Gun-control advocates warn of indoctrination through these and other youth-focused NRA programs.
For the National Rifle Association, no American is too young to join in their absolutist defense of the Second Amendment — and that includes kindergarteners.
As the NRA corruption trial began in Manhattan this month, the gun-rights lobby started accepting submissions from children grades K-12 for its 2024 "What the Second Amendment Means To You" youth essay contest.
The annual contest encourages children to engage in "scholarly research on the Second Amendment as well as reflect on how the Second Amendment and other Constitutional rights affect their daily lives," as the gun lobby described it in a 2016 blog post.
Leaving aside the oddness of asking the youngest of grade schoolers how the constitutional right to bear arms affects them personally, the contest raises alarms for gun-control advocates.
Gun violence was the No. 1 cause of death for US children in 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So there's something almost macabre in enlisting children in the NRA mission to restrict gun control, said Kris Brown, the president of the gun-safety group Brady.
"Eight kids a day are killed or injured by guns in the home," said Brown, calling that grim statistic "uniquely American."
"It's very dangerous for younger Americans to be indoctrinated with the viewpoint that the Second Amendment allows every American to lawfully possess a firearm," she said.
The NRA pushes the absolutist idea that gun regulation is unconstitutional and has successfully opposed bans on assault-style weapons, government-funded gun violence research, and even modest proposals for tighter background checks and limits on "bump stock" devices and silencers.
"They're selling a lie, and it's a very dangerous lie," Brown added. "They are selling it to your kids, and they don't care if it's killing them."
As a Manhattan judge presides over the civil corruption trial of the gun lobby and its outgoing CEO, Wayne LaPierre, a panel of NRA judges is now reading through hundreds of 2023 essay contest entries from the next generation of gun-rights advocates.
Winners in the K-8 "Junior" category and 9-12 "Senior" categories will be awarded $1,000 when judging ends later this year, with lower cash prizes for runners-up, according to the NRA's website.
An NRA representative declined to comment on the contest, held every year since the late 1990s.
The winning essays are not published, though excerpts from the two top prize winners from 2015 were included in the 2016 blog post.
"I may hunt, target practice, and some day conceal carry because of the leaders that fought for this right in the past," the first-prize-winning essay from the K-8 category said.
"In a world where things happen in an instant and danger is always lurking, the firearm provides the individual with an added measure of security," the blog post said, quoting from the winning essay in the Senior category for the 2015 contest, written by a girl from Miami.
Defense of the Second Amendment is a core mission for the NRA. In opening statements in the New York corruption trial, the defense lawyer Sarah B. Rogers told jurors, "The NRA is the largest and probably the most successful constitutional-rights advocacy organization in the country."
New York's attorney general, Letitia James, has taken the NRA, LaPierre, and two other long-standing executives to trial in Manhattan in a case scrutinizing lavish spending at the nonprofit. The trial is expected to last through mid-February.
The NRA, LaPierre, and his fellow executives have said that any questionable spending has been reimbursed; LaPierre has further argued through his defense team that his spending, including on chartered plane travel, represented justifiable work expenses.
The NRA offers other contests and scholarships for children.
The group sponsors cash prizes of up to $1,000 for children in first through 12th grade who create artwork portraying "any North American game bird or animal that may be legally hunted or trapped."
High schoolers can apply for an all-expense-paid summer Youth Education Summit in Washington, DC.
The gun lobby also offers free training programs through an online education course in several states; the New Mexico and Alabama program takes kids 10 and up. In Texas and Kentucky, it's 9 and up.
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