Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.

The industry's strategies include giving firearms, ammunition and cash to youth groups; weakening state restrictions on hunting by young children; marketing an affordable military-style rifle for "junior shooters" and sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; and developing a target-shooting video game that promotes brand-name weapons, with links to the Web sites of their makers.

The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.

"Who knows?" it said. "Maybe you'll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!"

Let's hope not. I think the pressure is building on gun manufacturers and retailers to reforrm -- the "Sandy Hook principles" as espoused by Mayor Nutter is a great way to pressure investor-minded firms (like...Wal-Mart) just as the Sullivan principles (also straight outta Philly) helped mark the beginning of the end of apartheid. Congress -- with its plethora of blue-dog Democrats -- is going to be a longer struggle. But hopefully today's "Junior Shooters" will emerge into a safer tomorrow.