"Weapons manufacturers energetically marketed guns to children. From the 1860s onwards, the craze for guns in the US was helped by their declining price as a result of escalating manufacturing capacity during the American Civil War. In Canada, too, guns aimed at the children's market were inexpensive. By the 1880s, revolvers sold for $1.50 or less. Eaton's (Canada's large department store) offered .22-calibre rifles for only two dollars in 1899. Air guns were sold in the toy section of Eaton's catalogue in 1892-3, and even when they shifted them to the firearms pages in 1902 they continued to refer to weapons such as the King Air Rifle as 'a splendid rifle for boys.'

"Masculine values, as well as good manners, would be promoted by training children in the use of firearms and marksmanship. Or so it was argued. In the words of Robert Baden-Powell in his phenomenally popular Scouting for Boys (1908), 'every boy ought to learn how to shoot and to obey orders, else he is no more good when war breaks out than an old woman, and merely gets killed like a squealing rabbit.' Magazines routinely portrayed the connection between boys and weapons as the most 'natural thing in the world, such as in an advertisement in Arms and the Man (1918): 'Let Your Boy Try for the Famous Winchester Medals' because 'every natural boy wants a gun.' It was part of a man's 'instinct' and 'allowed to develop naturally it will make a man out of him. Sooner or later he is going to get hold of the thing his manly instinct leads him to want, so the sooner you put a gun in his hands and teach him how to use it correctly, the better for both of you.'

"This was a masculine rite that linked sons to fathers. Indeed, it was the paternal duty of fathers to teach their sons how to wield 'the fine, accurate Winchester .22'. As a bonus 'You and he can have a lot of fun together.'

"Interestingly, in recent years, pro-gun lobbyists have supplemented this argument that guns are a form of father-son bonding with a parallel one in which mothers play a significant role. The catchword is family values. Thus, the NRA website features a video promoting gun use as a healthy family activity. In it Lisa Looper, a mother of three boys aged from two to eight years, talks about guns designed for 'concealed carry' by women, arguing that she started wearing a gun after she had children because 'it helps me to protect my boys – and that's what a mom is supposed to do.' She also believes that guns reinforce family life, arguing that so many family activities are 'geared towards just adults or just kids, but shooting sports is something that the whole family can be involved in. Being on the range definitely causes everyone to focus. You don't have the video games and the cell phones with us there. We focus on each other; we focus on the experiences. It is definitely a chance to bond.'

"That is, the good mother removes her children from the pernicious playing of videogames and the isolating effects of mobile phones in order to engage with the outdoor sport of shooting. Neoconservative values and the wielding of weapons of destruction are mutually reinforcing."