My Little Rifle: Portraits explore why American children bear arms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 9:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 9:20pm

It was a report about the accidental killing of a two-year-old girl by her five-year-old brother that led Belgian photographer An-Sofie Kesteleyn to travel to the United States and explore the reasons why weapons are now being made available to children.

The boy shot his sister with a .22-calibre "Crickett" rifle marketed at children. The rifles may come in candy colours and bright patterns but are just as lethal as regular guns.

In her work, junior shooting enthusiasts from the US state of Louisiana pose with their firearms, in a series titled My Little Rifle

Among them are Abby, aged eight; Tatum, six; Hayley, six; and Benjamin, seven.

All of the weapons are functional guns. The photographs were accompanied by drawings that the children made of the things that frightened them most, including monsters, wild animals and dinosaurs.

"My biggest fear is bears because if you get in their territory, they will chase you for a long time," wrote Benjamin in one portrait.

The phenomenon of children bearing arms has been a controversial one, particularly in the US, where the debate has centred on the conflict between the push for stricter gun controls and the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment.

Earlier this month, an American children's picture book explaining to children through the eyes of a "wholesome family" why parents carry guns drew intense criticism.

The book, My Parents Open Carry, was written by authors who said they feared "our children are being raised with a biased view of our constitution and especially in regards to the Second Amendment”.

And more recently, on Monday, a nine-year-old girl accidentally killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi sub-machine gun at a shooting range in Nevada. The girl pulled the trigger and the recoil sent the weapon over her head and towards the instructor’s head.