Happily ever after… with a gun.
That’s how the National Rifle Association is rewriting classic fairy tales in a new series for the NRA Family website. And while gun rights advocates see Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother taking on the Big Bad Wolf with a shotgun as empowering, gun control advocates say the series is “absolutely sick” and glorifies gun culture.
The stories are part of an effort to promote responsible firearm use for children while showing how the characters could have avoided some of the classic fairy tale pitfalls if they had a gun.
Trouble with kid-eating witches? Hansel and Gretel, the NRA says, could easily solve those woes with a hunting rifle.
First announced in January with the release of Little Red Riding Hood (Has A Gun), the stories are written by Amelia Hamilton, a conservative blogger and children’s author.
In the story, Little Red is packing heat along with food for her grandmother. While Red is picking flowers, the Big Bad Wolf goes to the grandmother’s cottage. Not to worry, because Grandma has also been trained in responsible firearm use:
"The wolf leaned in, jaws open wide, then stopped suddenly. Those big ears heard the unmistakable sound of a shotgun’s safety being clicked off. Those big eyes looked down and saw that grandma had a scattergun aimed right at him. He realized that Grandmother hadn’t been backing away from him; she had been moving towards her shotgun to protect herself and her home."
In its second installment published this week, Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns), the protagonists are no longer helpless children lost in the woods. Instead, they are survivalists hunting for food in the forest:
“Before long, they heard a rustling in the leaves, and slowly turned to see a magnificent 10-point buck drinking from a stream. Gretel readied her rifle and fired. Her training had paid off, for she was able to bring the buck down instantly with a single shot. She and Hansel quickly field-dressed the deer and packed up to head back home, hardly believing their luck.”
On the way home, they come across the witch’s gingerbread house where a few young boys are imprisoned. Without waking the sleeping witch, they free the boys.
“The boys directed Hansel to the key that would unlock their cage while Gretel stood at the ready with her firearm just in case, for she was a better shot than her brother.”
NRAFamily.org, first launched last year, says that these fairy tales are actually less disturbing than their classic counterparts. In some of the original versions of Little Red Riding Hood the heroine and her granny are devoured whole only to later be rescued unharmed after a woodsman guts the wolf.
The stories are all about public relations, said Alan Lizotte, a professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York at Albany who studies gun policy.
"This is the battle for hearts and minds," Lizotte said. "This is about whether gun owning families teach their families about safe use of guns and paint the NRA as the good guy."
The NRA also has other programs aimed at promoting responsible firearm use and gun safety through their youth programs, including a Youth Day at their annual convention. They have a child gun safety mascot, Eddie Eagle, with a program to promote gun accident prevention.
According to the program’s website, over 28 million kids have been taught how to stay safe if they find a gun.
Gun control advocates say the revised fairy tale make light of dramatic increase in violence involving kids and guns.
A study by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group found that there were 278 child shootings in 2015. So far, there have been at least 56 in 2016.
Children in the United States are 17 times more likely to be killed by firearms than in other industrialized nations.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said the stories celebrate a “degenerate culture that corrupts children and encourages them to take on significant, and unnecessary, risks.”
The revised fairy tales actually symbolize a broader ideological schism at play in the debate between gun rights and gun control advocates: what are the best ways to ensure children are best educated about gun safety and consequences.
And for the NRA, the fairy tales help ensure a degree of relevance, Lizotte said.
"If you talk about cartoon characters with guns who are you talking about? Moms and dads with little kids," he said. "They have to win thse young families over or they won’t go into the next generation. This is the kinder and gentler and NRA."