“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.”
What’s not fun, and went unaddressed on the sales page, is the reality that thousands of children unintentionally shoot themselves or others each year because they find a gun and pull its trigger. Culper Precision’s customization arrived at a time when that problem is only getting worse and firearm sales are soaring. As word of the new product spread on the Internet late last week, the idea struck many people as so profoundly misguided that it would inevitably cost children their lives.
When Kristin Song, whose 15-year-old son died in 2018 after accidentally shooting himself, first saw an image of the custom design, she assumed it was a joke, until realizing that it wasn’t.
“How is this even legal?” wondered Song, who has fought to pass legislation that requires gun owners to lock up their weapons if a child might get access to them.
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.
In the comments section of a gun blog that featured an interview with the company’s president, an argument broke out.
“This, if real, is the most irresponsible gun modification I have seen in a long time. Perfect fodder for the ‘Everytown for Gun Safety’ people. Not a help,” one user wrote on Thursday.
“Bottom line is that it’s clearly a bad idea to make a deadly weapon look like a child’s toy. I don’t mean to be judgemental, but I honestly struggle to understand how/why anyone could find this amusing in the slightest,” wrote another.
“Nothing says you are stupid [more] than making your real gun look like a toy,” wrote a third. “This is the dumbest idea I have ever seen.”
Dumb, yes, but legal in at least most of the country, said David Pucino, a lawyer at the Giffords Law Center. Although federal law prohibits toys from being manufactured to look like guns, no such law prohibits guns from being made to look like toys. Pucino noted that New York state bans people from disguising firearms as something else, which could make the Lego-crusted Glock illegal there, but he doubted that many other states had passed similar regulations.
In March, police officers in North Carolina conducting a drug raid found that a Glock with a 50-round drum magazine had been altered to look like a Nerf gun.
“Firearms of this type, while not illegal to possess, are concerning to law enforcement,” the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post.
In Utah, Culper Precision’s president, Brandon Scott, was cordial but resolute in his responses to the minority of online commenters who didn’t think the BLOCK19 idea was, as the majority described it, “super cool” or “hilarious” or a “10/10 meme gun.”
Scott maintains that the design was all about exposing people to the fun of shooting, an aspect of firearms that, he said, the media and gun control activists often overlook because they’re too narrowly focused on the tens of thousands of people who are killed by them.
Instead, he 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.
As of 2015, as many as 4.6 million children lived in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm, a number that has probably gone up during the country’s gun-buying spree over the past 16 months.
If the child of one of his customers finds a Lego-modified gun and shoots himself with it, Scott said that would be the customer’s fault, not his.
And what should happen to that customer?
“So, um, let’s see. I know that in some places that there are laws in place for negligence like that,” Scott said. But he added that he does not believe an adult who allows a child access to a gun that looks like a toy — resulting in the child’s death — should be held criminally liable.
The reason, Scott said, is because he doesn’t want the government regulating “common sense.”
“You know, the pain and anguish caused by losing a child would be a pretty intense scenario,” he said, suggesting that would be punishment enough.
And if it was a neighbor’s child who was shot to death instead?
“The neighbor can obviously sue,” he said.
Scott, who is also certified to teach concealed weapons permit courses in Utah, insisted that guns in America are unfairly maligned.
“There’s a lot of sports in the United States that are, in my opinion, a lot more dangerous than firearms,” Scott said, “and frankly, you know, kill more people on a yearly basis.”
When asked for an example, he pointed to motorcycling.
Ultimately, Scott said he came up with the design in hopes that it would start a conversation about the joy of shooting, a hope that came to an abrupt end this week.
Before finishing his interview with The Post on Monday, he said he’d gotten an email from Lego, which had been asked about his custom design from a reporter seeking comment on it. Although Scott had been careful not to mention Lego by name on his site, the company was displeased and sent him a cease-and-desist letter.
A lawyer, he said, told him the toy giant 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.
Lego, he said, had been polite but direct in its demands.
“They had a similar reaction to you,” he told a reporter, “where it was like: ‘Is it wise to make a gun look like a toy?’ ”