WASHINGTON – Here is Little Red Riding Hood, rifle slung over her shoulder, confidently striding through the forest. Now we see her granny, taking aim with a shotgun at the Big Bad Wolf.
What’s that? You don’t recall your favorite Brothers Grimm characters packing heat?
Then you must not have read the versions of classic fairy tales that have been reworked by the National Rifle Association, to help empower children by teaching them that well-armed citizens — even in the world of storybooks and make-believe — can protect themselves from those who would do them harm.
The powerful U.S. gun lobby has long made initiatives for children — the next generation of future gun owners — a key part of its outreach.
The NRA has taken its efforts — controversially — a step further by reworking some of the classics from children’s literature.
“Most of us probably grew up having fairy tales read to us as we drifted off to sleep. But how many times have you thought back and realized just how, well, grim some of them are? Did any of them ever make your rest a little bit uneasy?” the NRA wrote on its website.
“Have you ever wondered what those same fairy tales might sound like if the hapless Red Riding Hoods, Hansels and Gretels had been taught about gun safety and how to use firearms?”
The NRA enlisted writer Amelia Hamilton “to present her twist on those classic tales.”
The girl in the story stands little risk of being devoured by a wolf, armed with a firearm as she traverses the forest en route to her grandmother’s house.
“Red felt the reassuring weight of the rifle on her shoulder,” when she crosses paths with the wolf. However, “his wolfish smile disappeared for a moment when his eyes fell on her rifle.”
When he tries to engage her in conversation, “she shifted her rifle so that it was in her hands and at the ready. The wolf became frightened and ran away.”
The girl’s grandmother finds that a gun affords protection not just in the deep dark forest, but at home too, when the wolf shows up there looking to make her his meal.
“The wolf leaned in, jaws open wide, then stopped suddenly,” the story reads. “Those big eyes looked down and saw that grandma had a scattergun aimed right at him.
“I don’t think I’ll be eaten today,” said Grandma, “and you won’t be eating anyone again.”
Hamilton told U.S. television that she was surprised that the tales have been criticized by some who fear they try to make guns seem appealing to children.
“The stories are really also for adults and it’s all about safety,” the author told CBS television earlier this week.
“I was surprised by the fact that it seems like a lot of people didn’t read them before criticizing,” she said.
“Little Red Riding Hood” was the first fairy tale to be reworked, back in January. Next in line is an upcoming retelling of “The Three Little Pigs.”
The NRA also has put online Hamilton’s reimagined version of the Hansel and Gretel tale.
In her retelling, the impoverished brother and sister, eager to help find food for the family, head off into the woods.
“Fortunately, they had been taught how to safely use a gun and had been hunting with their parents most of their lives,” the NRA version of the fable goes.
“They knew that, deep in the forest, there were areas that had never been hunted where they may be able to hunt for food. They knew how to keep themselves safe should they find themselves in trouble.”
Anti-gun violence groups, seldom reserved when criticizing the actions of the NRA, were particularly scathing about the revised fairy tales.
“This is a disgusting, morally depraved marketing campaign,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
“The NRA continues to stoop to new lows in the hopes of shoving guns into America’s youngest hands,” he said, adding that nearly 50 children are shot across the country each day.
“If nothing else, this approach demonstrates just how desperate the organization has become to sell more guns — it must now advertise deadly weapons to kids by perverting childhood classics with no regard whatsoever for the real life carnage happening every day,” he said.
Last month, a new study said the firearms industry in the United States is focusing on children as young as six with brightly colored guns and encouraging parents to let children take up shooting at an early age.
The Violence Policy Center, which aims to stop gun violence, said gun manufacturers are marketing to the youngest consumers because their primary market — white men — is aging.
Around 30,000 people are killed in America every year by guns, mostly in suicides.
There are an estimated 350 million firearms in the United States, more guns than people.