Do Toy Guns Turn Kids into Killers?

Hi Readers — Here’s another question that arrived in th email. It began,  “Can we talk about gunplay for a few minutes?” Happily, by “gunplay” they writer didn’t mean, “What’s the upside of random shootings?” But rather, “Is it okay for kids to play around, pretending to shoot each other?”

While it drives me crazy when one of my sons puts his hand up to his brother’s temple and pantomimes “Pow!”, I totally love it when they get out their Nerf guns and run around playing shoot ’em up. I used to think toy guns were a tool of depravity. Now I think they’re toys…that happen to be guns.  So onward to the reader’s letter:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I had no idea how far the hysteria over gun play had gone these days until my son got in trouble for it last week at school.

The thing is, he wasn’t playing with a gun. He and his friends were playing with sticks. And since they were well aware of the rule against “gun play” (the rule that I had previously been ignorant of), they weren’t even pretending that the sticks were guns; they were pretending that they were crossbows.

By nobody’s report were they bothering anybody. The game involved the 5 or so boys who were happily playing with each other and that was the scope of it.

For this, my son and his band of friends were prohibited from sitting with each other at lunch for a day, and were banned from the school playground “until further notice.” At recess, they had to stay under close supervision on the blacktop.

Now, my husband happens to work at the school and he spoke with some of the staff members involved, which resulted in them reinstating the boys’ playground privileges 2 days later. But my husband also found out that the rule against gunplay is mandated by the state, so there’s no use in complaining to the principal; this is a legislative matter.

I suppose I should be thankful that that’s as far as it went. At no point was suspension or any other wild overreaction even mentioned. A friend I spoke with after this happened mentioned that when her son had been in first grade, he was threatened with suspension for making a threat against a friend to “shoot her with his BB gun.” Never mind that he didn’t even have a BB gun, it was actually a Nerf gun. Never mind that he didn’t have it with him at the time, and never mind that these two kids were good friends who loved to tease each other. Regardless, if he did it again, he’d be suspended.

My son is a gentle-natured boy who’s normally more interested in climbing trees than playing shoot-’em-up, so we don’t have much gunplay at home. But even if we did — seriously, these are kids, and it’s imaginary play. I know the difference, and so do kids. It’s only the grownups who seem to struggle with the distinction.

Based on the little bit of Googling I did, it seems there’s no proven correlation between gunplay and real aggression. Some have even suggested that prohibiting gunplay could have the opposite effect and make guns a tempting forbidden fruit.

I understand that events like Columbine have scared the crap out of people, but I have a hard time seeing how playing with a few sticks on the playground is going to turn kids into murderers. -Cindy H.

Stop? PHOTO CREDIT: woodleywonderworks, on Flickr. http://bit.ly/97MUu3

126 Responses

  1. Before I was old enought to go to school, we played cowboys and Indians in the forest for hours, had toy guns and bows and arrows with rubber tips. As far as I know, not one of us grew up to be a murderer.

    Kids have to play, if we’d only let them.

  2. It’s funny (in a sad way) to see how far things have fallen. There used to be a time where a rifle at a typical school would not have caused an alarm at all. Now even drawing a gun on paper is considered a punishable offense.

    My American history teacher would let us fire this old black-powder rifle behind the school when we were learning about colonial times (It was just powder, no lead ball). This was before Columbine. I’m willing to bet that they don’t let that go on anymore.

  3. I once considered bringing a Laser Tag gun and sounder to school as props for a speech I had. Decided against it for dramatic purposes. I probably wouldn’t have trouble today— it was a private school— but man oh man, if I’d done that at a public school… yeesh. I hate to think what the consequences would be.

  4. Sheesh! By the time I was four years old I had several toy guns, and no I didn’t become a homicidal maniac. When I was a teenager I knew of many parents who never allowed their sons to play with toy guns or other weapons lest the boys would become violent felons. However, these boys would take any other toy and pretend it was a gun or other weapon whether it was a Sailor Moon wand or a toy electric guitar.

    On the contrary I wasn’t too happy when I noticed someone who was under eighteen had a real gun as I was taught by my grandparents that the real thing could hurt someone very seriously and should only be handled by adults.

  5. I struggle with this one. I’m honestly not thrilled with the idea of my son running around pretending to shoot people without any concept of what it really means. No, it’s not going to turn him into a murderer. I’m sure he’ll be fine. It’s me I’m worried about.

    When I was a kid I had a neighbor who was forbidden to have toy guns, and hence he was obsessed with them. I wasn’t allowed to have candy, and hence I ate a lot more candy than most kids.

    So I’m not going to forbid my son from having toy guns, but I can’t help wishing he’d play with something else.

  6. To me there is a difference in making a threat and playing a game. I have tried to get my boys to stop playing shooting games, but they just use scarves as guns. And you know what – I think we go much further teaching how to direct our energy to a positive place (e.g. how to hunt, respect for life) than acting as if those impulses don’t exist.

  7. Better gun play with nerf guns or sticks or fingers than playing with real guns. Get it out of their systems.

    My boys have an arsenal of nerf guns, and I love it when they get outside and play with them, and I can’t wait for the snow and mud to melt already… I keep finding nerf bullets all over after the indoor battles with dad!!

    This, of course, goes to the growing problem of how we’re raising boys, by not allowing them to be themselves.

  8. My mother did not allow “toy weapons” of any kind in our home. This was just fine by me & my sisters- but I do recall my mother trying to hold back her giggles while she reprimanded my 5 year old brother, as he had nibbled his graham cracker into the shape of a pistol.
    Kids will find a way to imagine whatever they’d like.

  9. I had toy guns as a kid. I’ve also been using real guns since the age of 6. Yes, 6.

    We were never taught that using guns was bad. But we understood very well the damage that a gun does – we saw our uncles bring home deer in hunting season and butcher them. And because we knew what that looked like, we had a very healthy respect for the responsibility that comes with using a gun, even a pretend gun.

    Kids can definitely understand the difference between real and pretend, the problem is that most of us never expose our kids to the reality of guns, just the pretend.

  10. For those of you interested in this topic further, check out my son’s kindergarten teacher. Her work related to raising boys and the elements of violent play is compelling. As a side note – she is a fantastic teacher.

    http://www.janekatch.com/

  11. Ask to see the state statute. I highly doubt that this is a state law. Sounds like another school official saying “Dont be mad at me, it’s the state.” Politely ask them to show you the law.

  12. My take on this is nuanced

    We do not allow toy guns in our home or in our yard. The reason for this is simply one of safety. I live in a relatively high crime urban area, we have found guns, real guns, in the alley. I want to reinforce the idea that guns are not toys so that if my child is out playing with friends and sees a gun they will not pick it up because guns are not toys. In addition I think there are too many ways that kids are desensitized to violence, more ways than when I was a kid.

    Do I think gun play turns a kid into a killer, no way. I think a more appropriate response to this issue in the schools is to try to get the children to play a game where they get to be powerful and heroic without using weapons. Punishing children for weapons play is a lazy and uncreative response to a normal play scenario of the school age set. And good for the kids for being creative about following the rules outlawing gun play and coming up with cross bows.

  13. my husband jokingly calls it “zero intelligence” instead of zero intolerance.

  14. plastic coat hangers, sticks, wrapping paper/paper towel tubes, bendy straws, toast chewed into the appropriate shape…with little boys, anything that can be a weapon (and some things that can’t without a huge dose of imagination) will be a weapon. it’s a guy thing, and even if the ‘gentler female nature’ of a mother doesn’t like it, it isn’t going away. like crossing the street, the wisest, safest course is to teach responsibility and awareness.

  15. When we were kids, my mom had a friend who also had children our age. This friend did not allow her children to play with guns, because it was too violent. My mother thought there was no difference between giving us toy guns and having us pretend that sticks were guns (as the friend’s children did), so she just let us have toy guns.

    So who was more violent, my brother and me? Or the gunless stick-playing kids who pulled the wings off of flies for fun?

  16. What turns kids into murderers is the little creeps giving the geeky kids swirlies every day, not gunplay.

  17. @steff That said, your reasons make sense to me, and seem based in the reality of your environment rather than theory.

  18. I agree that this is a tough issue. My mom never let me have toy guns, or GI Joe, or anything that glorified killing and shooting. I could play with He-Man and toy swords and such. I would binge on my friend’s extensive GI Joe collection when at his house, but I never really felt unfairly treated that I couldn’t own them myself. My mom didn’t prevent me from playing with his stuff.

    Now as a parent I respect my mom’s views. I want my kids to realize that there’s nothing fun or funny about pretending to kill each other. At the same time I want them to have vivid imaginations and the ability to separate reality from fantasy. And I don’t buy the “it’s just how boys are” argument. I think we play a role in steering boys towards aggressive play, both actively and by passively allowing it and chalking it up to the boy-nature.

    All that said such decisions should be up to the parent, not some recess police.

  19. I remember reading an article many years ago that spoke on introducing our children to alcohol. It basically said that in families where alcohol is de-mystified, there is a much lower incidence of reckless teenage drinking. I think the same thing applies here: if we make it out to be, as someone said earlier, forbidden fruit, what do we think is going to happen when the kids are old enough to find these things on their own? We didn’t have guns or alcohol in our house (unless you count the water guns – my dad’s had a gallon tank) and our parents taught us according to what they believed – no alcohol and guns aren’t allowed in this house. I guess that makes it kind of ironic that I joined the Navy and became a weapons technician.

  20. Does that mean I’m in real trouble someday, as my kids love squirt guns and toy swords?

  21. There’s quite a decent amount of social science research in this field confirming your conclusion – that increased gunplay (or, for that matter, playing violent video games) doesn’t correlate at all with increased aggression or violence in kids.

    Still, rather than rehash the literature, might I just say that there’s none better who’s written about this topic than the legendary Vivian Gussin Paley – most notably, in her 1986 book “Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner”:

    http://www.amazon.com/Boys-Girls-Superheroes-Doll-Corner/dp/0226644928/

    She makes a powerful contention actually FOR children’s fantasy play of this kind, replete with toy guns and all. Definitely recommended reading.

  22. @RobynHeud, I agree with you. I’ve let my kids taste a drink and the faces they make! They don’t like it and it’s not a big deal mystery. They also know their grandfather died from alcoholism and smoking and so far, neither activity interests any of them, although the oldest is only 14. But she’s the one I focus on now since she’s the one more likely to “go with the crowd” on something, My son’s coming right up on it, too.

  23. Oh yes, and another vote for Jane Katch too. She’s a widely acclaimed expert on the matter, too – equally respected by Paley herself, in fact.

  24. Having 2 boys ages 9 and 6 they turned everything into a gun! Legos, hangers, their own fingers,etc. Please read the book BRAIN SEX. by Anne Moir, David Jessel.

    I miss cap guns. They were my favorite. While reading everyone’s comments, I am surprised about how many GIRLS (including myself) played with guns. I knew a Canadian family (the dad was a medical dr.), and their 7 year old daughter had toy guns and a gun belt to place them in. She was so cute! She’s older now, and not a murderer!

    Growing up in Idaho, everyone owned a gun for hunting. Since my husband is not into hunting, we don’t own one. However, if he was, I would not feel comfortable having one in my house. I don’t trust my boys!!! The younger one is a combo of Curious George and Dennis the Menace LOL.

  25. I struggle with this one myself. While I realize that children sort through difficult concepts through pretend play, there is still something very distressing about, for example, a child holding a pretend gun (either a specific realistic toy, or one made from Legos, or a stick) to another child’s head and “shooting them.”

    As a teacher in rural Alaska, most of my male students are hunters. I stopped class to have a little imprompty mini-celebration when a kindergarten student came into class and announced that he had shot his first MOOSE. It was difficult, as an educational professional, to know where to draw the line. Bullying comes into play… two children on “equal” social footing playing war or shoot-em-up is one thing, while a known bully bully even pointing his FINGER and “shooting” his victim is something else entirely. There’s playing and then there’s threatening.

    In the former case, I’d try to step in and guide them. We’d talk about war (a unit from our area recently went to the Middle East, so students had a lot to deal with), about the roles of medics and field doctors. We’d talk about how, since we’re not soldiers, we do not shoot human beings or even point guns at human beings.

    In the latter case… it stopped immediately. Period. Probably accompanied by a trip to the principal’s office.

    I guess I’m lucky in that I live/work in a place where guns are tools. Maybe lucky isn’t exactly the right word… I’ve attended the funeral of one of my favorite fourth grade students after he was accidentally killed in a hunting accident. Guns are a VERY real part of life here, in good ways and bad. Real life, if you’re a child, gets expressed in play. It’s healthy and promotes social/emotional health. However, this is an area where I think that play needs to be… well… not GUIDED, but perhaps debriefed afterward.

    A playful, anonymous, sweaty, breathless game of “war” is not generally a sign of anything any more menacing than kids having learned about war and wanting to “play it out.” Kids directing fake violence, gun or otherwise, unidrectionally and with the intent to intimidate is… a threat. It may be a threat several years off in the future, it may never come to pass, but it is victimization.

    It can be a fine line. My sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors and I used to orchestrate MASSIVE games of war in basements or backyards. It was pure “play:” if sides seemed unbalanced, we’d stop, swap a few teammates, and start again… and the new teammates would switch sides effortlessly because there were no real emotions involved, no animosity towards anyone on the other side. We all graduated high school, either completed college or technical school training and are contributing members of society as (if memory serves): two teachers, a preschool teacher, an insurance industry professional, a police officer, an apprentice auto mechanic, an accounting assistant, and a stay-at-home mom. On the other end of the spectrum, a boy at our bus stop in elementary school used to climb up a tree and pretend to “snipe” all the girls. He was busted for stealing a car by force in high school and I’m not sure what happened after that. The extremes are easy to discern. It’s the pesky middle ground where we adults have to figure out when and how to step in.

  26. “We didn’t have guns or alcohol in our house (unless you count the water guns – my dad’s had a gallon tank) and our parents taught us according to what they believed – no alcohol and guns aren’t allowed in this house. I guess that makes it kind of ironic that I joined the Navy and became a weapons technician.”

    Mr. Nonymous grew up in a household without TV. Ironically, he now works in the audio-visual field. (He says that his parents wanted them to read, but now he has no resistance to television. I grew up with TV, books, outside play, travel, etc. and read a lot more than he does, although he has read more since we got married than he did when he was single.)

    My parents drank very sparingly, but there was always alcohol in the house–generally in a cabinet, but never locked. We were allowed to have a couple of sips of wine at Thanksgiving and Christmas (pretty much the only time my parents drank). My brother never wanted any, and I was very happy with my couple of sips. It was definitely not forbidden, but it wasn’t an object of interest, either. If my parents were choosing soft drinks and milk when alcohol was available, how alluring could it be? Answer: not very. And today each of us has a drink if we feel like it, but neither one of us drinks much at all.

  27. They day they invent legislation that can control how a child naturally behaves is the day all children are androids.

  28. What state do you live in where a LAW actually passed prohibiting gun play at school? It’s hard to imagine a law like that getting through a legislature, even in a particularly liberal state. It’s not hard to imagine it being school policy, since that requires no democratic process.

    My daughter told me that, at school, they were not allowed to form their fingers into a gun and say, “Pow! Pow!”

    It’s just absurd. There is no overarching moral context going on here; just extreme prohibitions, and absolutely no discussion of proper and improper uses of force, real vs. pretend, etc…which makes children LESS equipped to respond appropriately with regard to violence in the real world.

    I don’t think you have to prohibit play with toy guns to teach your children that real guns are not toys. My six year old knows well and good the difference as well as exactly what to do if she encounters a real gun (stop! don’t touch! leave the area! tell an adult!), despite having played with toy guns. (Although, we don’t actually have *toy* guns in the house, mainly because the kids aren’t that interested in them.) Which is not to say they don’t engage in weapons play, but they use their imaginations and a variety of objects such as sticks.

    The kids who don’t know the difference are kids who are never exposed to real guns in a supervised context, never hold or shoot a gun, and are never taught gun safety. This brings to mind a ridiculous 60 minutes special I saw, where they taught the kids gun safety in ten minutes (not kids who grew up with guns), and then put a loaded gun in the TOY CHEST, and then filmed the kids and did a shocked commentary—oh my goodness! The child is trying to load the gun! He’s not following the safety instructions! See how unsafe guns are! Well, you know, we try to keep our guns out of the TOY CHEST at home, and we try to give them more than ten minutes gun safety instruction from a stranger with an agenda.

    “I think a more appropriate response to this issue in the schools is to try to get the children to play a game where they get to be powerful and heroic without using weapons.”

    But this is not a “response” to the issue of a kid naturally playing gun play with a stick. What do you do? Stop a kid playing knights and say – pretend you’re a Knight of the Roundtable rescuing the princess but you don’t have a sword or a shield or armor. Wouldn’t that be more fun? Or interrupt two kids playing cops and robbers, and say–Okay, pretend you’re a cop chasing a robber, but you live in England! And only the robber has a gun! You just have a billy club! What I hate about this sort of thing is that it sends subtle messages to children that certain professions – law enforcement, Army, Navy, etc. – are not honorable.

    This attempt to remove weapons from the child’s imagination erradicates with it an enormous chunk of world history, world civilization, and world literature.
    We’ve had weapons since the cavemen, and always will have weapons. What needs to be taught is not, “Don’t play with weapons!” but “Here is the proper and improper use of weapons; here is how you use weapons for evil, and here is how you use weapons for good…”

  29. Which state is this?

  30. Toy guns exist not just because they mimic real guns (although sometimes that’s a design consideration), but because, in fact, the gun “form factor” if you will, actually works really well. Ping pong ball guns, water guns, Nerf guns, Airsoft, BBs, Rubber Band guns, suction cup dart guns, and even Crossbows and Real guns are all popular because holding something in one hand that can deploy projectiles is just efficient.

    Why do I mention this? Because hurling things at other people (in the childlike fun fashion) will never cease to be fun, as the Nerf guns throughout my office can attest. Snow balls and water balloons are still fun to throw and are just a bit unwieldly as guns, but by golly if someone could invent a one-handed snow ball hurler I’d probably get a dozen and pass them out to some friends and see what happens.

    I can see some concern about kids of a VERY young age when you’re talking about toy guns that really resemble real guns. Understanding the difference is important if there’s a chance a child will come in contact with a real gun… this is why the “red tip” rules didn’t really bother me. And in the classroom our where inappropriate, sure, fine, make rules. But forbidding sticks on a playground is WAY over the line.

  31. I can’t imagine there is a law against imaginary guns. Sure, you can’t take actual guns to school, but that just common sense.

    This whole story reminds me of my final week of elementary school. We did a lot of fun things, including a massive water fight on the playground with an enormous hose and – yes – waterguns.

    If the law can’t make the distinction, it should be changed. If the law does know the difference, that would be a good reason to show the school how silly they’re being.

  32. Along the lines of what ChipMonkey has said… I was originally dismayed when I discovered that no amount of discouragement would get my son disinterested in guns. Then I realized it wasn’t the VIOLENCE he cared about, it was the projectiles, the loud noises, the mini-explosions, the cause-and-effect reactions. So gun play with nerf, darts, balls, and these weird squishy little pellets (gift from grandpa) is allowed at our house as a form of science play.

    We’ve had lots of discussions about why it’s important to never, ever aim at any living thing unless you’re hunting for food, but otherwise it was really an eye-opener for me to realize that it was the physics of the thing that mattered to my kid, and he was pretty unaware of the violent nature of it at all.

  33. Lets see – I have been using a 22 revolver, and 22 rifle since I was about 6 yo. I started using a shotgun at maybe 11 – 12. I have never killed anyone – thought about killing my homeroom today after they got in trouble at swimming and on the bus back but didn’t do it.

    I do not like toy guns with projectiles (Nerf being an exception) I was shot in the eye twice by dart guns.

    Funny story. I was at sleep away camp at age 9 or so. I tried to sign up for riflery (yea we chose our own classes at camp w/o parents). They said I had to take BB because I was a subdeb. They got their first taste of me and my cousin particular brand of crazy that day. We argued no I couldn’t take BB because my Dad and her Dad would cut off my hands. They ended up calling my Dad, who said I could take BB as long as I didn’t touch a BB gun away from the instructor.

    I made BB club the 1st week. The instructor told my Parents, Aunt and Uncle she had never met 2 kids so well schooled in using guns safely. We wanted to clean them after class because when we shoot at home we clean our guns. When ever another kid said something about an unloaded gun – we would say No such thing as an unloaded gun. (You always treat guns as if they are loaded)

  34. My son was suspended for two days in fifth grades for telling his friend, “I’m gonna shoot you in the head with my nerf gun.” Yes he DID say nerf gun. The teachers and students who witnessed the “incident” all agreed on that. Still, he was threatening violence which is cause for manditory suspension under school district policy.

  35. My daughters routinely play things that involve death, blood and guts. From playing dinosaur, where my 5yo is always the t-rex, to recently having a tea party that involved a pile of doll house dolls that were being roasted over a fire for eating (“look mom, we caught the peoples, now we’re gonna eat ’em!”)…there’s a whole lot of death in our house.

    I don’t think these games are just kids exploring violence, death is a very novel concept to young children and these shooting/war/violent games are part of them trying to understand what it all means.

    Until very recently, my 5yo didn’t really grasp that death was permanent. Then I lost a baby half way through gestation and nearly died in the process. Suddenly the fact that the baby was gone and not comming back seemed to hit home. Ever since, death of one sort or another has become a prominent part of her play – whether it is that she’s the scary dinosaur that’s in charge of life and death for the vegie dinos, or she’s the police shooting a bad guy – she’s seeking to understand death and feel comfortable with it by playing in such a way that makes her feel as if she has control over it.

    I don’t think these kids are going to be axe murderers, I think they are developing minds trying to understand and grow into a complex world…why can adults not figure this out?

  36. Like a lot of the respondents, I, too, have struggled with the issue of toy guns. I had toy guns and I’m not at all violent, but we live in what can be a violent city and we hear about gun violence all the time. I’ve told my son for as long as I can remember, that I don’t like guns. That said, I allow them in context. My son LOVES cowboys and what self-respecting cowboy does not have a gun? I also love science fiction like Star Wars and have loved sharing it with my son. So I allow guns (or blasters) in context of play, but I don’t allow it to get personal. It’s the sheriff rounding up the varmints (or the space ranger rounding up the intergalactic troublemakers), but no talk or actions directed at another real live person. That is, nothing where you are pretending to shoot at your friend.

  37. Playing with toy guns seems pretty tame compared to these real life childhood stories.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/b3xg6/whats_something_you_did_as_a_child_that_you_look/

  38. I grew up in a “no gun anything, ever” household. I remember my grandparents giving my brother and I squirt guns and my mom returning them because “guns are for killing people” and gun play teaches kids “its ok to shoot people”. I was 12 before I even knew that a bullet was involved. I was really frustrated that “blasters” were allowed, swords, bows and rocks were allowed, but no guns. I knew those things could also kill people, or not. I didn’t see why my mom could not grasp a concept I understood very well.

    Now I live and hunt in Idaho. I know there are many kinds of guns with many uses. At first I was in the “never ever point any gun at any person” camp, but that eliminates my beloved water guns.

    Now I think I will teach my kids early the difference between a “gun” and a “toy”. I don’t treat butter knives and steak knives and hunting knives and swords as the same thing, so I think they can learn between “toy” and “weapon” as easily as “gun” and “non-gun weapon”.

  39. Back in the 50’s, it was a given that boys would have “play” guns. That included water pistols, cap guns, and homemade wooden guns.

    I don’t recall anyone ever being shot in our area of Western NY State because they had toy guns as kids.

    There were (and are) a few hunting accidents over the years, but in no way could that be attributed to playing with toy guns.

    We suffered more personal injuries playing football at a vacant lot and playing hockey at the village park in the winter.

  40. Toy guns are much less dangerous then a wooden stake and mallet used in playing vampires vs. vampire hunters (after watching Salem’s Lot).

    Just saying…

  41. I have nothing against toy guns or real guns. I would rather my kids knew what a gun actually is, though.

    My kids at 3 have brought the gunplay stuff home from school. I have taught them that they must not point or shoot any gun – real, play, or pretend – at another person, or at any living thing unless they are hunting it for food. They know what death is, what it is to kill animals, and that a gun can be used to do this. I also gave them an alternative – they are free to “shoot” at a target or at anything that is not alive. They understood and have actually implemented my rules, reminding each other if one forgets. But that is no guarantee that they will never jokingly say “I will shoot you.” It is outrageous that kids are getting suspended from school for such things. Little kids don’t have the maturity to remember what they shouldn’t say 100% of the time. Heck, plenty of adults don’t, either.

    Someday my kids will be allowed to decide whether they want to learn to handle real guns. It is something their grandpa enjoys and would like to pass along. It is quite possible to teach kids to respect both guns and living things. My parents managed to do it. The last thing I would do is tell my kids that guns are bad. They are no more “bad” than knives.

    Columbine scares me, but not because of the guns. It’s because of the sickness that somehow took over the hearts of those children.

  42. Growing up we made guns with a couple of pieces of wood and a clothespin. Our “ammo” was large rubber bands cut from old innertubes.
    Moving ahead a few years, I was admonished for using the term “weapon” on a .22 rifle range.
    My ADHD ward was suspended for possesion of a greenish-yellow piece of a broken plastic gun in his elementary school. That boy is now an expert in the safe use of rifles and archery equipment, and has a certification as a Junior Range Master that allowed him to teach and supervise younger children on a Cub Scout Day Camp BB range (yes, as THE shooting sports Range Master, I supervised him–from a distance).
    Do I think he is a danger to other or himself? If and when he reaches the rank of Eagle Scout, there will be a gold-plated collector’s model .22 with his name on it.

  43. Very interesting ideas. I’m trying to let go and not hover as much over my kids. They are still pretty young but I’m letting them take risks little by little. Not so much a comment about toy guns as much as finding this blog interesting.

  44. This is refreshing. Thanks! Once again, Free Range Kids always seems to give me the reminder dose of sanity and reality that I need!

  45. Something I forgot to add. My son, as a cub scout, participates in both BB guns and archery at summer day camp (held at a private school). I’d rather he learn about them than get curious if he happened to find a gun at another child’s home.

    Interesting…and I had forgotten it…my public high school in the northeast had a shooting club.

  46. Time for KIDS to say to teachers and principals: “Wise up! Can’t YOU tell the difference between fantasy and reality? We know the difference between shooting somebody with a real gun and pretending to do it with a play one. What’s keeping YOU in the dark? What kind of example are YOU setting for US?

  47. […] You have been warned.  I’m sure the Brady Bunch will be giving it a poor grade ASAP. […]

  48. Growing up, the only rule about toy guns my mom had was that the gun could not look like a real gun, so all my toy guns were futuristic ray guns, or cool squirt guns. Until I was 10 & I got my first lever action Daisy BB gun.

    For those who wonder about kids and actual firearms, Kathy Jackson has a great blog about how to raise kids with guns in the house. Even if you don’t have guns in the home, it’s worth a read.

  49. “they weren’t even pretending that the sticks were guns; they were pretending that they were crossbows”

    Score one for youthful intelligence and creativity.

    Of course the bureaucracy involved went all in to squelch it. Not even “We’ve letting you off this time for being clever but the rule in now extended to all projectile weapons and other gun-like objects”, but “We’re making a retroactive change in the rules and punishing you.”

    Figures. That’s what my public school were like too.

    And they wonder that they don’t get much respect.

  50. This is so disgusting it makes me want to cuss at the top of my lungs at the absolute and appalling amount of ignorance cruising through the modern population of the western world.

    I don’t have a gun in my house. Why? Because I am not schooled in how to use it, my husband is not schooled in how to use it, nor are my children. Why bring a weapon that can kill you into a house that no one knows how to use? If I took a class, maybe… but therein lies the difference.

    People now seem to feel that they can blame the OBJECT for the death of people, not the person using said object. A gun is bad – not the killer using it. A child is NOT a killer simply because they play guns/crossbows/axe-murderer/vampire killer (cute anecdote, btw)/lions of the Savannah.

    Vilifying the object means that our service men and women are bad. They kill! It means that hunters are bad! They kill too! Even our cows so we can eat a stupid hamburger from McDonalds are shot in the head… uh oh… we should have nothing to do with the meat industry. Killers! Next thing you know, pencils will be outlawed because words hurt feelings so we’d better not write either.

    Letting kids play death… oh my goodness. The only thing stupider than denying your child the opportunity to play dead is yelling at animals when they kill their prey (and yes, I watched a gagle of morons do this at the zoo when a hornbill killed a squirrel in its enclosure). Death is absolutely part of life – whether a child is dying from an invisible bullet or another child taking down their prey (we played animals ALL THE TIME as a kid).

    It’s stupid, deeply ignorant, on so many levels to remove real life from our children! It’s stupid and ignorant to vilify objects as the problem, and not talk to our kids about what KINDS of people kill and why that’s not the proper way to resolve a problem.

    I’ll never deny my kids the ability to go out and play guns or dying. We talk about things, though. Apparently, that’s a major difference in having common sense and being a douche.

    *goes away disgruntled*

  51. Interesting point f view, from the british specialists.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/education/7163741.stm

    There are also other interesting links

  52. There doesn’t have to be proof of childish play with pretend guns leading to gun violence in adulthood. We are dealing with people who put faith above proof (no, I don’t mean that in a religious way) simply to push their moral agenda. Any actual proof will be ignored or somehow “unproven.”

  53. My wife had a friend (single mom) who was determined her little boy was not going to turn into one of those violent, competitive, aggressive men. She carefully supervised everything, TV, books, play…. nothing the least bit violent was allowed. Well one day her by then about 3 yo son ran into the room with his hands formed into a gun and shouted, “bang, bang, you’re dead.” Deb’s friend realized then and there that it was a lost cause, that boys would be aggressive and violent in their play and there was nothing she could do about it because they were made that way.

    John Eldredge wrote a book called “Wild at Heart” several years ago. It should be required reading for all who work with boys and young men, not to mention those who make the rules for them. Actually it’s just plain old good reading for men and their spouses as well.

  54. I played with toy guns now and then as a kid, as did pretty much every other boy my age.

    Funnily enough, we’ve all managed to defy seemingly insurmountable odds and not gone on crazed killing sprees.

  55. I grew up playing with toy guns & learned to shoot real firearms at a very young age [only accessible with an adult there, locked up otherwise]. Two of the big rules were never to point a gun, real or toy, at a person or animal, and to assume all guns were loaded [and “real”, unless we knew otherwise]. One thing I remember is that we never had BB guns, because too many kids used them as toys – ie, shooting at animals or eachother, and my dad didn’t want us to get the impression that it was OK, or that we could shoot at living things for fun.

    With my kids, I plan on having pretty much the same rules. I might wait until they are a little older to introduce them to real shooting, if they show an interest, but I think the best path is to let them play with toys but also teach them safety and that it is not OK to use even a toy gun to “kill” a person or non-food animal.

  56. Great post, wonderful comments and useful links!

    I am a little confused that a state which allows folk to own a gun, discourages gun play in children.

  57. I spent my childhood with an SKS in a particular location that I always knew (now it’s officially mine and I still know exactly where it is). Wonder what the lefties would think of that. Not only did I grow up with guns, one of them was a military carbine, and uses the same round as the “evil” AK-47. I need to tell that to a lefty just to see the heart attack… Anyway, I’m no danger to anyone, really. I own two battle rifles (a Gewehr 98 and Mosin-Nagant, both WWII vintage), that SKS, a .270 hunting rifle, and several other smaller rifles, plus a Single-Action Army in .45 Colt and a Walker Colt black powder pistol. I could probably equip a small SpecOps unit, but I’ve never killed anyone. Or anything, really. I’ve gotten nothing hunting.

    I will always say the main thing about firearms is that children cannot be afraid of them. They need to know what is responsible handling and what is irresponsible handling. You know the drill: don’t point at anyone (with the exception of clear self-defense), know what’s behind your target when you are shooting, keep the chamber clear and safety on until ready to fire. It’s all common sense to someone who doesn’t think guns are something psychotics use to murder people.

    To address the “desensitization” issue somewhere above, I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing. Most of the shooting media that children will see counts as justified violence. Nearly every single time, shots are fired against someone who deserves it. Rambo killed Burmese military who are as oppressive as they get. GI Joe kills international terrorists. Robin Hood takes care of the oppressive rulers.

    Even when the gunplay is by glorified villains (Public Enemies is a good example), there’s something that no one notices. If you shoot like the villains do in the movies, you aren’t going to hit anything. Shooting a sidearm while holding it sideways is about as effective as spitting. Actually, less effective. The spit might go straight. Firing from the hip? Want to know why our casualties from bullets in Iraq are so relatively low? Yes, they’re related.

    (the answer is that native Iraqi insurgents would fire from the hip and be unable to hit a thing except by pure chance; only when foreign insurgents appeared in large numbers trained by the Jordanians, Yemenis, Iranians, etc. did we start losing people to bullets in greater numbers)

  58. you’d think that in the interests of tolerance and respect teachers would remember that guns were the original “equalizers” that gave physically weaker men (& women) the ability to protect themselves from those who were physically stronger.

    my younger son brought a toy rifle with him when we went to pick his brother up from school once. i took it away from him once the kids came out b/c he was waving it around and i was afraid he’d whack someone with it. as we started walking home i was carrying the rifle at my side, pointed down, and a teacher came up to me and started giving me the passive-agressive business. apparently, even if one can tell the difference between a toy and the real thing (and this was clearly a toy), it doesn’t matter.

  59. I agree with the opinion that prohibiting gun play has the opposite effect and makes it much more tempting. Actually, back in the dark ages I learned in Ed. Sc. Class that kids experience so much violence of different sorts in their everyday lifes (on T.V., verbal aggression etc.) that the use gun play as a means of dealing with it and coping… So from this point of view it’s even healthy — given, of course, a fairly healthy environment.

    My kids do play with toy guns and get into stick fights — but they are absolutely forbidden to point a toy weapon to another person’s head, that is something that I just don’t tolerate.

    So long,
    Corinna

  60. I was being reminded this morning of what our founders had to say about arms. The cynical side of me has to wonder if this is not a big part of why there is such strong opposition to kids having/playing with guns? Let me say now I am not a gun nut, although I do live in a rural setting and own a couple. Here are a couple of quotes to illustrate:

    “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.” -Noah Webster

    The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them. – Zacharia Johnson, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 25, 1778

    Laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. – Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, quoted by Thomas Jefferson in Commonplace Book, 1774-1776

    “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference they deserve a place of honor with all that is good.” – George Washington

    Washington also proclaimed firearms to be “the people’s liberty teeth.”

    “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves … and include all men capable of bearing arms.”

    “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms…” – Richard Henry Lee – Senator, First Congress

    There are many more, and just as many encouraging local, well armed militia. Historically, when we have had to fight one of our advantages has always been that so many of our people knew how to shoot already. I’ll close with a somewhat humorous, but none-the-less telling quote from a founding father renowned for his wisdom – Benjamin Franklin – “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

  61. Boys naturally play this way. As long as we live in a society that fetishizes the gun as a totem of power, boys, who are trying to figure out where their power is, will play this way. It’s up to parents to contextualize this, and it’s up to school administrators to acknowledge the power and conflict play are in the hard wiring of male humans as a biological species. It’s not about legitimizing killing, it’s about discovering who they are.

    I actually know many people who keep and bear arms. They are among the most responsible, thoughtful people I’ve met. When around real guns, they stress safety and responsibility first, but that’s a different issue.

    We’re talking here about play. Play is how children locate themselves in the culture. When kids “run wild,” it’s up to parents and teachers to provide a framework for understanding it. As in, “You can play Power Rangers, but not with grandma.” Simply eliminating something does not resolve the issue. It will come out in other ways. Toy guns may be banned, but sticks will suffice because the play happens in the imagination.

    Read the prologue to Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” in which the chorus apologizes for not having real artillery, horses or thousands of men to recreate the battle. “Think when we speak of horses that you see them./Printing their proud hooves i’ the receiving earth.” It is not the literal, but what exists in the mind that drives play and ultimately behavior. Removing the props is short-sighted.

    Gerard Jones’ 2003 book on the subject: “Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super-Heroes and Make-Believe Violence” is essential reading on this topic. It should be required of every school board and parent in the country. http://tinyurl.com/ybq6jd9

  62. I have a friend whose kids never watch tv, play video games and live in a safe urban neighborhood. They always want to make guns with their fingers and play shoot out.

    My son: has seen some tv, and lives in a sketchy urban neighborhood—not interested in the slilghtest.

    I think it’s question of temperament, actually and of disposition. Shooting/aiming happens in the symmetry plane (movement-wise) and so kids who are more analytical (and sometimes perceived as more intelligent–which is a longer conversation—) will be drawn to this activity no matter what their exposure. The problem is, if they are like that to begin with, and then their level of exposure has desensitized them then there is potential for violence (and that, my friends there is substantial research about).

    Once again, there is rampant teacher-bashing going on. The fact is, when a kid gets stuck in the eye with a stick and the parents complain/sue, it’s awfully hard to defend you decision.

    I also, think it’s BS that there is a state law, however. I would ask to see it. And, if all the parents who felt as people on this site do, would band together, and NOT bash the teachers then positive change will happen. For years now, the other side has been disproportionately represented in policy making.

  63. […] Blog Title Home About Me Contact RSS Login << Is this thing on? | Home You want to see reasoned discourse? Firearm Safety , Gun Myths , Guns. Lots of Guns. THIS is reasoned discourse […]

  64. I’d prefer my son not play with realistic looking guns, nor have any of the bloodier shoot-em-ups.

    In my head, Super Shooter water guns and Nerf rifles are completely different.

    It’s one thing to play hunting, cops, and army with something that looks like a neon green and orange 2-liter bottle on the back of a squirt gun.

    It’s another to have an Xbox controller that looks and physically feels like a real gun in the hand, and hours and hours logged in memorizing how to aim and decapitate.

    My husband was in the army, and these video games are exactly how they were trained. The premise behind the military’s education is that they want soldiers to have the muscle memory in place so that they can tune out and fire without feeling like they’re ending someone. It’s more logical to act out of habit in a combat situation, so that’s what must be established; the habit.

    It’s not that guns are evil, or that imagining them is even wrong; like a previous poster from the Great White North said, guns are tools and nothing more.

    It’s the habit that worries me. That, and the sad fact that cops and crooks alike will react differently to the visual of a kid carrying a Nerf gun to a park than they would to one with a small black pistol, regardless whether it’s made of plastic.

    I’m all for play. I just insist that the toys look like toys.

  65. I understand that events like Columbine have scared the crap out of people,

    The interesting thing about Columbine is that there is significant evidence that both shooters were highly disturbed individuals. Psychologists have determined that Eric Harris was most likely a bona-fide Psychopath. What most people don’t know/don’t realize/don’t remember is that we’re not talking about a kid who got fed up with being bullied and brought a gun to school, we’re talking about a kid who wanted to overshadow the Oklahoma City Bombing. He had a plan to blow up the cafeteria at lunch time, then pick off the survivors as they ran out of the building. The only reason it became a “school shooting” was because the bombs didn’t go off as planned.

    (Sorry, it’s a soft spot for me, as I was in middle school when it happened and so directly dealt with the perception at the time that they were bullied outcasts — a position I sympathized with.)

    I like Steff’s point about reinforcing the fact that firearms (and bows/crossbows, for that matter) aren’t toys, even when not in such a situation as hers. However, I think that a middle ground could be reached, and kids can still play things like “cops and robbers,” while understanding that if they find a real gun, to not touch it and get an adult.

    As one who is fascinated by human behavior in general, I found it interesting to see the perception of firearms between the suburb I grew up in until early middle school, and the rural, hunting community I spent my teenage years in. On the one hand, you had the usual stigma against guns, even going to far as to believe that simply touching one would turn the handler into a killer. While on the other, you had kids that had been using firearms (under strict parental supervision, of course), since they were as young as five years old, and were able to get their hunting license at 12.

    The results, of course, were that you had one group of people perpetuating the fear of firearms (and in some suburban/urban areas, eventually having de facto bans on carrying), while on the other, you had a group that recognized that the safety of firearms lay in the person carrying the weapon, and seeing and respecting them for the tools that they are.

    Guns are certainly dangerous, there’s no disputing that, and that’s something that I think everyone needs taught. However, I don’t think kids should be taught to fear guns, but rather to respect them in the same way they’re taught to respect things like knives, the stove, and open flames, all of which can be dangerous and even deadly and more destructive than almost any firearm that a civilian can get his/her hands on.

    Anywho, I’m not quite on topic. As someone else mentioned, this is more about play than real guns.

    Andreas, would you be so kind as to point out some references regarding the link between gun play and real violence? I know that there are theories of links between animal abuse and future abuse and even murder/serial killing, but even those aren’t completely confirmed. In both my example and yours, however, it’s more of a matter of predisposition and personality. If that’s the case, then perhaps there is something else going on? Perhaps it’s more of a naturally violent tendency (or, on the extreme side the child might be Sociopathic, and therefore lacks emotion and empathy to begin with), instead of a desensitization.

  66. Blake

    Solid lefty here. My kids can shoot. Real guns. No heart attack that you have an SKS or any of the other weapons. The righties I worry about are the ones my ex hangs out with… government is evil, black people are devils, and we have to have loaded automatic weapons leaning in every doorway, along with our buried cache out in the back 40, for when the folks from the g’vmunt come try and take our guns, or our land, or our kids.

    Let’s not toss about political labels. I know plenty of conservatives who are mortified that I’ve let my kids learn about guns, shoot real guns, and spend time with gun-loving grampa. Who got my husband his first rifle at 11.

    My kids are clear on a few things: Some of the family hunts. Police are your best friend when you are in trouble. Their guns are tools. They do not hurt people unnecessarily. Those in the military put themselves in harm’s way for our benefit and they deserve our support and respect, regardless of what we think about the POLICIES that create the situation. And Afghanistan? Not supporting action in Afghanistan is akin to not supporting action in Nazi Germany. Men CUT OFF the hands and feet of women who break rules, and wear them as trophies around their necks. Boys as young as 11. Not all war is without principle, nor unnecessary.

    Doesn’t sound very lefty? How about, universal health care, paid maternity leave, universal childcare, living wage. ‘Bout as left as you can get… But guns are tools, and kids need to learn not to fear guns, and need to learn how to use them. Real ones.

  67. I second Christoopher Byrne’s recommendation of “Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence” by Gerard Jones. http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Monsters-Children-Make-Believe-Violence/dp/0465036961/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266703047&sr=8-1

    “Make-believe violence plays an essential role in children’s development.”

  68. My grandmother tells this story about who when I was born (I am the oldest of two brothers) my Mother stated that her children would not be given gun toys of any sort. As Grandma tells it, as soon as I could pick up sticks I was pretending to shoot things. Neither Mom nor Grandma can figure out how I would have know what a gun was. So Mom’s decree didnt work out the way she planned.

    I ended up with all manor of gun toys, nurf guns and bb guns. I did not buy my first firearm until I was married. Now I am an avid sport shooter. I enjoy the discipline and the challenges just as I do with the other sports I participate in. I even have reintroduced my Mother to shooting (she it not bad but will be better once I can get her to keep her eyes open when she pulls the trigger).

    Circling back to the topic, children need free range to play. They need to climb trees and roll around in the dirt. They need to play whatever games enter their imagination. They also need great roll models, which is exactly what my parents provided for us.

  69. Blake, I’m about as left as they come and I have no desire to take your guns away. Give that a rest, wouldja?

    ********
    Growing up, I was raised in a hunting family. We also had a bb gun. We had dogs that a neighbor would NOT restrain and they were not friendly dogs. After they’d killed one of our cats and chased our other animals on our own property, we learned to use the bb gun on them, and don’t wag your finger at me about it. They learned to stay off our property, we got good at aiming, and they weren’t harmed whereas their teeth wanted to harm us and ours.

    We took gun safety classes, shot skeet once in a while, and appreciated what a gun could do. As adults neither of us own a gun, we know what they can do and know that if we want one, we can get one. It just doesn’t rate as important to us. We played with cap guns and water pistols and Starsky and Hutch like everyone else. It didn’t make us into killers.

  70. dragonwolf, and all,
    just google “media violence desensitization” and reams comes up. I could get you some more specifics, but you’ll be able to come up with it all on your own, I’m sure.
    My point, and the poster above whose husband works for the military, is that you CAN lose sensitivity and WILL given a certain set of circumstances. This also seems to be the logic behind those who show their kids the difference between toys and guns and use gun education to train sensitivity and care.
    I wouldn’t ban that type of play, though, and I am a teacher. It would be nice to have human institutions where you could make informed decisions on a case by case basis. However, people seem to feel entitled to consistency that they can understand.
    Wrestling, for example, is incredibly healthy for kids to do. However, I have had classes where there were several kids with sensory integration problems, and I just couldn’t make it work with those groups. Most of the time, it is really fun, but if it goes bad, then it’s about five phone calls, three meetings and a wild festival of disciplnary action…..in all directions…

  71. We used to have competitive shooting teams at my high school. As kids younger than that we played with toy guns all the time, and my dad bought me my first BB gun when I was in grade 6.

    Kids never shot kids then. I blame today’s anti-social youngsters on Public Television and Barney!

  72. too many “elevated” comments to read. here’s my take: children’s play is their way of processing information and death and violence are two very heavy concepts for a child to wrap their head around. by acting it out with their friends in the safe land of Make Believe, they are able to give it a frame of reference so they can have a foundation to be able to understand the world around them. If a child were “sheltered” from all of these things, and something of consequence were to happen to someone they knew or even while reading/listening to a story, they wouldn’t understand the gravity if “swordfight”, gunfight” or death. there wouldn’t be a frame of reference to the events and they would be confused…if they continued to be sheltered even after asking what these things were, you end up with a sixteen year old who’s so emotionally stunted that they don’t have the forsight to understand “if I point this gun at my friend and shoot, he will DIE. Death is forever. Death hurts. this is my friend. I shouldn’t point.

  73. My son’s school principal called me months ago and told me that my son had been caught on the bus making a gun symbol with his hand and pointing it at a girl. When I asked my son about it, he said he was pointing at a deer out the window with his “finger gun”, either way to me it was a bit insane that there was such a big deal made of this. The principal went on to tell me they would have to suspend him if he did this again.

  74. @Sara – I really appreciate your comments. I live in a very different setting – the urban Northeast – but your thoughts are similar to mine. I think the way you’ve parsed out the different kinds of gunplay and your responses to each is reasonable an useful. In general, I don’t see harm in pretend gunplay. However, living in a place where gangs are a reality, where kids are being groomed for gangs, and where teenage boys are being intentionally killed with guns, I totally agree with your statements that kids need to be “debriefed” about this kind of play. I just can’t be totally cavalier about it.

  75. We (DH & I) were in the “no gunplay” camp, until we had a 5 year old boy (now 7) and it’s just part of their little boy DNA to pick up anything (spoon, shoe etc) and “shoot” it. We do have the “don’t shoot at us or the dog” rule… he loves to live in his imaginary world of Pokemon, Harry Potter, & Star Wars so long as he’s not hurting one of us or trying to “shoot” at actual ppl he’s fine. I played “army” with my friends with toy guns and I think I turned out fairly normal🙂

    I do fear that my MIL thinks we’re letting A go too far with his “gun toys” (note, he has no actual toys that are pretend weapons, just his fingers and other household items, like my knitting needles) and the Wii target shooting game (it teaches hand eye cordination, something I’m seriously lacking)… but maybe she’ll come over to the “dark side” and enjoy his active imaginative play someday🙂

  76. There are other factors involved in school shootings. To criminalize gun play is just wrong. Everyone is forgetting the roll that guns played in founding this country. How will boys and girls roll play good vs. evil without guns and weapons? While words are powerful and I am teaching my kids to use words instead of fists when truly upset, kids don’t pretend play by saying “I really told him!” I love your blog.

    Cori
    http://www.wonderinthewoods.wordpress.com

  77. just google “media violence desensitization” and reams comes up.

    Internet debating (and debating in general) 101 — The burden of proof is on the one that makes the claim. In other words, if you make a claim, be prepared to provide links yourself, regardless of how prominent media reports on the issue may be.

    That said, I can also pull up reams that show no long term correlation even between video games and violence. Then, there’s also the fact that even the news exposes kids to enough violence that if one is desensitized by media exposure to it, they would be. Oh, and there’s a reason why movies, TV shows, and video games have ratings on them. If an 8-year-old is getting his hands on GTA, it means one of two things: a) the store doesn’t have a policy of enforcing video game ratings, and/or b) the parents bought it. Even if they bought it for themselves, it’s their responsibility to control what their child is or isn’t exposed to. (On a side note: even a “life-like” video game controller won’t prepare a person for the mechanics of a real firearm, such as the sound, kickback [and potential dislocated shoulder if you’re attempting to fire a large enough weapon and failing to hold it properly], and hot shell casing flying by your skin.)

    However, neither this topic nor your claim are about media violence, it’s about “gun play,” or playing with toy guns or pretending sticks or even their own hands are guns and playing such games as “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and indians.” So please, avoid the strawman and red herring arguments and stay on topic, and I ask again, please be so kind as to point out your sources that say that playing with toy guns or playing “cops and robbers” desensitizes children or otherwise causes them to be violent.

  78. @Dragonwolf

    Video gaming is not off topic in the slightest.

    Topic? Toy guns.

    Xbox? Toy. With gun add-on.

    Ergo…

    But other than that, I agree with much of what you’ve said. Certainly, kickback and the physical experience of having fired is very different. But I’m not convinced that the *aiming* and comfortablility factors ARE different, and that’s the part that happens before the situation. After the situation, there’s not much that can be changed.

    I’d rather my kid feel weird holding a gun, that’s all.

    Doesn’t mean I won’t teach him to responsibly use one when he’s old enough to understand cause-and-effect, or to discuss the consequences, etc.

    As I said, my husband is former military, and his whole family hunts. My son probably will, too; but not until he’s an older teenager, and not with things that look just like a toy he’s already had.

    And yeah, 100% spot-on with the news media desensitization call. But that’s another topic. 😉

  79. A child’s mind is very fragile and doesn’t really distinguish very good what’s real and what’s imagined. Any violence or toys like guns will definitely leave a mark on that kid.

  80. @Cathy-thanks for the link-I laughed so hard, my husband asked me what was wrong.
    On Subject–At 2 1/2 my son got a candycane from “Santa”, promptly turned to me with it crooked in his finger and said
    “Look, mommy, Santa gave me a gun !!!”
    I have never given him toy weapons, but when he has to pretend, I just say-“No shooting at people or other living things–feel free to kill the furniture”
    So far, no casualties

  81. I don’t like realistic guns. I just don’t- it freaks me out. Nerf guns and neon squirt guns? No problem. Invisible guns? No problem. Guns the size of a quarter? No problem. It’s just the realistic one that bug me.

    I went to school pre-columbine. We were allowed to play with squirt guns and nerf guns at school. Bringing rubberband guns to school just led to a lecture and the gun being confiscated. Out of my class of 45, only one has spent serious time in prison (considering 1 in 100 adults are in jail/prison/parole at any time, that stat is pretty normal). And there was just something wrong with him from day one.

  82. @Tracy Lucas

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on whether or not video game weaponry is on topic. Personally, I don’t think it is, for a couple of reasons:

    1. The original post isn’t talking about video games at all. It’s talking about sticks that kids pretended were guns, a practice that young kids (generally boys) have done since long before video games even came into the picture.

    1a. Andreas’ original claim was that the above-described “gun play” has correlation with later violence. It wasn’t until I asked for sources that the media/video games came into it.

    2. Video games that involve shooting weapons, particularly the more life-like games (Halo, GTA, Cabela’s, Call of Duty) have Teen or Mature ratings for a reason — they’re not aimed at kids. In my opinion, too many people think “oh, it’s just a video game” in the same way they think of comic books/graphic novels — that they’re all “just for kids” — and that couldn’t be farther from the truth (in general, the target demographic for a good portion of video games [particularly those that are considered “violent” in all but the most reaching ways] is actually males age 18-24).

    How we feel about our kids handling a firearm is another area we’ll have to agree to disagree on, as well, since I wouldn’t want anyone to feel “weird” or “uncomfortable” with holding or even firing a gun. I would want them to feel “weird” about injuring or killing a person (even in self-defense, but at the same time, they shouldn’t be afraid to shoot someone in self-defense in the off chance it ever did come down to that), but simply holding or using a firearm in general shouldn’t be something to fear or feel “weird” about, because it’s more dangerous for a person to use a tool they’re not comfortable (at least on some level) with, and even worse if they fear it.

  83. Playing with toy guns (or other things that are turned into guns) makes me squirm. But not because I want to stifle free play or micromanage the kids. But because guns, or the likeness of them, are symbols of violence and power negotiations. We can dismiss this as play, but play both imitates and reinforces the real world. No, your gun-playing kid might not turn into a killer, but I doubt s/he will be as practiced at peaceful resolutions or empathy.

    And the whole, ‘boys will be boys’ argument is frustrating to me. I’m a behaviorist at heart. We socialize boys to these tendencies. These power grabs we allow boys reinforce the power we assign men as adults.

    So, no guns (real or otherwise) in my house. Not that I won’t let them throw snowballs or water balloons. Simply because this is the property of childhood, they are not an imitation of an adult world. The difference between snow balls and guns is the symbolism – one invokes a world of play, the other, a world of violence.

    As for the school’s reaction. I will admit that it seemed a bit extreme. Their play could have easily just been redirected.

  84. From out here it seems logical that if you want people to stop shooting each other it makes more sense to control what adults do and not what kids do, i.e. stop people having so much firepower in their houses.

    I know from conversations I have had with Americans, however, that the suggestion that it is better not to fill your house with assault rifles evokes a very strong reaction.

  85. My three-year-old nephew is, well, a boy. His mom and dad were fine with gun play, until their normally sweet little boy would look at someone with an intense look on his face and say “I gonna kill you.” So, guns are banned (for the moment) at his house. The nephew’s response? He’s way into swords now. And, after talking to my sister, I know that toy guns will return when he gets a little older.

    My nephew had his first brush with death about the same time he became interested in guns–the family dog, who was about 14 at the time and very ill, died. This was back in August, and my nephew still randomly says “You know what happened to Legolas?”

    I’m not worried about my nephew turning into a psychotic killer–I think he’s just coping with what has been the most traumatic event in his life so far. My sister and her husband have both handled guns–and, for that matter, participated in gunplay as children. I think they have a very responsible attitude as far as this tricky issue.

    On a side note, I graduated high school about a month after the Columbine shootings. I grew up in a small, rural town where hunting is a way of life–we would even have a day off of school each year for the first day of deer hunt. As recently as the fall before Columbine, the vice president of the High School would come over the PA to remind everyone that guns were not allowed on school ground, so please be sure to empty your gun rack before coming to school. I seriously doubt that they still have such a laid-back attitude.

    And you know what? Out of the 200 or so kids in my graduating class, not to mention the scores of classes that had graduated previously since the founding of my high school, not one of them has gone on a murdering rampage–even the kids who forgot to take their hunting rifles out of their trucks before coming to school. In fact, I can count on the fingers of one hand the murders that have taken place in my home town in the past twenty years.

  86. Let’s step back from the subject of children (mostly boys) playing with toy weapons of any kind. Now, let’s focus on what is going on around them. Are they exposed to real raging, rampaging adults at home or in their community? Do they see or experience parents behaving and talking violently? Do they get exposed to violent “entertainment” they are not developmentally able to understand and thus feel deeply frightened all the time and looking for an “equalizer” of some sort? These things can provide the context for some children’s play that can led to serious behavior problems as adults…and even then only sometimes. Kids in relatively safe environments act out their natural primative aggresive impulses through play and they know it is play because it is not that much like their real lives. Then they outgrow all this play and move on to sports and other age appropriate interests. At least until they meet an Army recruiter.

  87. I think it’s reasonable for a parent or teacher to express disapproval over gun-play, or to refuse to supply toy guns to their kids, if that’s the way they feel– but I’d draw the line at disapproval. You can’t stop them from pretending, so let it be. I feel the same way about “bad language”: tell the kids that *I* don’t want to hear that kind of language, punish them if they flout my request, but otherwise let them use whatever language they like on their own. You teach kids about your values without trying to keep an iron grip on them.

    I’m pro-gun-control (like I’m pro-auto control and pro-plane control), but if I discovered a law like this in my state I’d fight it with no hesitation.

  88. dragonwolf,
    the question Lenore asked was, “do toy guns make killers?” And, my answer in several ways has been “no.”
    what I said about the media exposure to violence is that it might exacerbate a situation where someone presents with a certain disposition and make them more prone to violence,….or not.
    What are you arguing about? Why all the vitriol?
    And, I’m not writing a term paper…I ‘m participating by giving my opinions on a blog, and I barely have the computer skills to do that, let alone provide you with links.
    We are basically agreeing, and expanding the topic a little.
    Sheesh.

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  90. I looked into the literature on media exposure to violence about a decade ago for a class I was taking. My understanding was that most social scientists agree it desensitizes children and adults. (E.g. experiments have shown that children who were given a violent TV show to watch do less to stop a fight than children who were given a less violent show). There was also some agreement that people who watch violent media were more likely to be aggressive but, if I recall correctly, cause and effect was less well established. I don’t believe the general scientific consensus has changed significantly since then. The main paper I used (as it was a convenient overview analysis) J. Cantor, Media Violence, The Journal of Adolescent Health. August 2000, V. 27, I. 2.

    However I don’t think the research is applicable to role playing games. TV removes you from consequences – role playing is about exploring the consequences of things you can’t do for real. You’d have to do separate research to look at that kind of link I think. My understanding is that most experts find role-playing for kids is a way of processing the world and understanding it rather than acting out future real-life scenarios.

    More directly on topic – Banning guns and aggressive play seems to be a part of a presumption that we should suppress all aggression in our children. And I really disagree with that. Aggression needs to be used appropriately not banned. It’s an important part of a well rounded character. We should be teaching control and ways to channel aggression constructively, not pretending it doesn’t exist.

  91. Off topic – but here is more insanity on the warning label front.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35511567/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/

    I’m sorry this woman lost her son, but we do NOT need more regulations.

  92. Great common-sense manifesto from the grammomster. To me, far too many Americans are locked into a “sports fan” or similar tribal identity when it comes to politics – “I’m a “conservative” and therefore am totally opposed to anything that my news/op-ed sources deride as “liberal socialist Obamaism” or “By God, I’m a “liberal” and all guns should be banned along with meat sales (death penalty for anyone who ownes a fur coat, of course, even if they live in Chicago) but you should be able to get an abortion at the corner store.” Lots of goofy ideas and goofier mouthpieces on both sides, but damn little common sense and compromise.

    Anyway, I’ve never noted that gun play is particularly gender-specific. I’ve been “shot” by as many little girls as little boys – the one thing that I’ve noticed is that the harder the parents try to ban toy guns the more enthusiastic the kids are about stick/ Lego/ finger guns.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I first fired a .22 rifle (under my dad’s close supervision) when I was five. By 10 I had a pellet rifle, a .22 of my own at 12. We never had a Columbine but there were enough guns in the cars in student parking at my public high school (rural Midwest, mid-70s) to equip a regiment, especially during duck and deer season. It breaks my heart when I read/ hear about a 14 year old who dies playing with a gun because it is so pointless. 14 is plenty old enough for unsupervised use of firearms if the kid has been raised to respect the potential and understand the consequences. But a kid who has never been allowed to touch the “hidden” gun (and of course, since the parents never told him it was there in the nightstand, he had noooooo idea it was there) and whose firearms training consists video games and R-rated movies…. perscription for tragedy.

    And a shout out to all the vet brothers and sisters above – I graduated from a pellet rifle when I was 10 to MK-48 torpedos and Poseidon C-3 ICBMs with multipile nuclear warheads in 8 short years. Is this a great country or what?

  93. When I was a kid I had a toy chest full of toy guns and my friends and I played war almost every weekend. I would fill up a duffel bag full of plastic uzi’s, plastic handguns, and plastic rifles and then ride the subway uptown (by myself!) to my friends apartment complex where we would spend all day hunting each other and pretend-killing each other in epic imaginary battles. I also grew up watching action movies and horror movies and I was obsessed with them. I never got into any real fights with kids, and to this day I’ve never thrown a punch or done anything remotely violent. When my parents moved us out to the country, I befriended kids who played with REAL guns, shooting cans in their backyard while their father looked on. I went over there one day and they offered me a shotgun to shoot at bottles on tree stumps. I refused. I had absolutely no desire to fire a real gun, in fact I was horrified by the fact that this household had real guns. I’m not saying that these kids were bad or that their parents were wrong, I’m just saying that despite my imaginary gunplay, it did not in any way motivate me to seek out the real thing. And any “studies” that suggest that kids who watch violent movies become more aggressive or are less likely to intervene in real-life violent conflicts is ridiculous. I now have a baby son of my own and while I don’t plan on buying him any water pistols or plastic grenades (like I had) I certainly won’t freak out if he wants them or if he makes a gun with his finger and runs around going “pow-pow”. I’ll just remember how much fun I had pretending to be a super spy or Rambo and let him have his fun.

  94. Violent media does desensitize, but that’s not the same as saying it increases aggression. It means the psychological affects of witnessing violence are lessned; it doesn’t mean you are more likely to commit violence wrongfully. It is a sort of conditioning tha tmay reduce your hesitation time when you choose to act violently. The military uses training similar to violent video games for this desensitization. (On Killing is an interesting book on this subject.)

    Of course, in the past, people were desensitized to brutality by living in a more brutal culture than we live in, on average, today. It’s not like we see a local hanging, and most of us (thankfully) don’t witness the routine wife beating, or expect to see a sibling die in infancy.

    I’m not a fan of exposing my kids to excessive media violence, or violent video games, but I don’t have a problem with them learning to use real guns safely, hunting, target shooting, etc. However, if they do end up watching violence as teenagers, I don’t think it will turn them into killers. But I think imaginative play with toy guns is healthy in a way that watching violent movies and playing violent video games is not.

  95. Toy guns are necessary; you can’t play cowboys and Indians with real guns unless you have an unlimited supply of friends…

  96. Dan – “And any “studies” that suggest that kids who watch violent movies become more aggressive or are less likely to intervene in real-life violent conflicts is ridiculous.”

    Yeah. The scientific method has done nothing but harm.

  97. Kids Table And Chairs: A child’s mind is very fragile and doesn’t really distinguish very good what’s real and what’s imagined. Any violence or toys like guns will definitely leave a mark on that kid.

    Kids are more resilient than you give them creidt for. You better bust out the bubblewrap.

  98. I laugh when I see parents trying to “ban” their kids from playing with swords or guns. Usually, the kids make their own “swords” or “guns” from sticks, anyway. lmao

  99. I am not a fan of real guns at all. I don’t get hunting (I’m a vegetarian to boot), and given that my dad is a retired cop, I think the fewer real guns in circulation the better. I feel I would not feel entirely safe with a gun in my house – the chances of it hurting or killing one of us is far greater than the chances I will fight off an intruder with it.

    But I allow water guns, laser tag, guns created out of legos and tinkertoys, swords and light sabers. I draw the line at real looking toy guns, mostly because I don’t want some hyper other parent or school official freaking out. I also encourage them to do archery and bb shooting at cub scout camp – a safe and supervised way for them to exercise their little male chromosomes, and earn a badge or two in the process. The cub scout camp also taught gun safety, and a had a police officer talk to them about guns. I feel they have learned enough to keep safe and satisfy their curiosity, without having to forgo my own values.

  100. My childhood friends and I used to play the most violent imaginary games – ‘I’m throwing you into a vat of acid! AAAAAAAAH!’, ‘I’m getting you with my nunchuks!’, ‘I’m killing them with my laser gun!’ and none of us ever killed anyone.

    All my friends were boys and, interestingly, they had got a lot of their violent imagery from watching action/horror films… I wasn’t interested in seeing them so I just got the imagery second-hand from my friends.

    But I think it’s natural for boys to be fascinated by the macabre for one reason or another… more than once I’ve overheard boys under 11 having conversations about films going ‘And yeah, that’s that bit yeah, and, like, she gets a spike in her eye, innit? And that guy whose head gets ripped off, it’s really cool!’ Boys are just like that, and they can take it.

    I suppose things about guns are more close to home in the US, where guns are generally available, though it’s getting that way here in the UK due to media hysteria brought about by some gun murders of young people seeming, sadly, to have risen lately.

  101. Helenique – “My understanding was that most social scientists agree it desensitizes children and adults.” This statement of yours prompted some eye-rolling and caused me to put the word Studies into quotations. I have no problems with the scientific method otherwise, it was the definitive air of your statement that I found so bogus.

    I murdered a thousand imaginary enemies in my youth and so did all my friends. We grew up to be empathetic, sensitive and compassionate adults. but perhaps I just don’t know how desensitized I really am! Maybe I’ll go read some decades-old studies to arm myself with knowledge.

  102. Dan – I thought I was clear by my use of “my understanding” that it was simply how I, a non-social scientist, understood the expert opinion. I provided the main overview paper that provided a basis for that understanding so that someone who was better informed or got a didn’t understanding from the same research could indeed say along the lines of “yeah, but….”.

    What would be a better way to try to introduce some actual research into a layman’s discussion?

  103. Earlier this month, I got a note from my /daughter’s/ teacher that she had been reprimanded twice for using her finger to make bang-bang gestures at other kids. At home, we have two rules for ‘violent’ play (padded swords, snowballs, and up):

    1) Only play with people who want to play, and
    2) No head shots.

    Obviously, the latter rule is moot when it comes to finger-guns (unless you wrap a rubber band around it), but I’ve had to add a third rule – after explaining to her why her teacher pulled her aside.

    Rule 3) Don’t make the teachers twitchy.

  104. I love this topic! I also love the research that has been done on this area of child play.

    My understanding of the research (and watching hundreds of kids pass through my classroom and none have become violent people) has me disagreeing with Mama Tortoise’s statement: “No, your gun-playing kid might not turn into a killer, but I doubt s/he will be as practiced at peaceful resolutions or empathy.”

    That actually couldn’t be farther from the truth! We fear this symbol of aggression, yet miss its real purpose – experimentation with power, action, and reaction, in a safe way. Forbidding this natural and purposeful activity only creates resentment, power struggles, and isolation.

    I’ve written tips for helping the weapon play to be a positive experience in Grateful for Gun Play.

  105. Dan and Helenique,

    Unfortunately social science research has always lagged in this area, leading to quite a few flawed conclusions about the nature of children and violent play/media/toys. These flawed conclusions are probably due to several reasons.

    First, the bulk of most research on the impact of media violence and/or violent toys on children has been framed poorly from the start – typically with a research question like, “Do kids act out more violently after being exposed to violence?”, that inherently leads to a given answer already in mind (“Yes”). What’s not as well considered, though, is the strength of correlation and other independent factors influencing the relationship, if there is one. In a sense, the studies have set up their own answers from the start. A better way would be to examine violence more openly and holistically, considering all the factors in a child’s life over a long period of time – but that’s actually quite detailed research, and nobody wants to pay for something like that.

    Second, for quite a long time the research study methodologies themselves were somewhat flawed – like the classic “Bobo the Clown” experiment, typically they’d have a kid in a room who they would then expose an element or media portrayal of “violence” to. and then they’d immediately take that kind into another room and see if the kid behaved more violently. Clearly, though, this is an immediate and relatively unnatural situation – and kids might immediately behave as though they’re affected by the violence, but if you were to look at the kid’s bevaviour a few weeks later, you’d have seen the impact wasn’t at all permanent. (There’s also the question of whether this type of design study itself actually encourages kids to be violent, since it’s a strange circumstance and it appears to the kids that the researchers *expect* them to be violent; naturally, the kids acquiesce to what they see as the adult researchers’ wishes.)

    That’s the short version, and why you can’t really rely on studies to inform your understanding of something – at least without knowledge of the study design itself and its limitations.

    Luckily, research in the past 5-10 years or so in children and violence has become much more sophisticated and less leading. Personally, I think the most promising research comes from Henry Jenkins and his students; he looks more generally at media (rather than toy play), but I think the message remains the same. Here’s an article of his you might be interested in reading:

    http://henryjenkins.org/2007/04/a_few_thoughts_on_media_violen.html

  106. Daniel,

    While I think your critique is valid for the pop psychology version of what passes for social science in the mainstream press, it’s not as though the academics who specialize in this area aren’t aware of the shortcomings. I think those are factored into the assertions the field makes – which I thought were generally fairly circumspect.

    The paper I cited above, for instance, went into study design (as analysis papers generally do) and covered pretty much all the criticisms you raised and how other research had managed to counter those flaws (or not). Indeed much of the criticism you made was covered nearly 40 years ago in the Surgeon General’s report to Congress.

    Thanks for the Henry Jenkins article. I was particularly interested in his assertion that media affirms our tendencies rather than changes us. I couldn’t find any links to his research on violence and media, and from his Wikipedia article he appeared to be more of an academic in the media criticism vein than a behavioral scientist. Do you have a more direct link to the research you mention?

    Also, I’m intrigued as to how the holistic research approach you propose would establish causality? I’ve been assuming (in a vague bystanderish way!) we were waiting on neuroscience breakthroughs to really push behavioral science further.

  107. Helen – sorry, this’ll have to be a quick response. I’ll offer my thoughts the study you mentioned earlier at another time, if you like, but I think it’s sufficient to say that I do tend to agree with you that most blanket assertions in this field are fairly circumspect. I’d probably go a bit further, though, and debate whether the dissociative effects that Cantor concludes are really strong enough to warrant anything. Bottom line, as I think you’ll agree, is that this is vastly broad area of study – and requires a great deal of research sensitivity to its complexities.

    Per Henry Jenkins, he himself does tend to stay more in the theoretical realm – though if you’ll cull through his website and books, you’ll come across references to the research he relies on. (I linked to that particular article of his mainly for its breadth of coverage, not depth.)

    Another academic who I tend to conceptually lump with Jenkins, for their similar perspectives and interests, is Sonia Livingston. Particularly, there was a chapter in the reader she edited – the ‘International Handbook of Children, Media and Culture’ – about children, media and violence that has strongly shaped my thinking. I don’t have the book available right now, though, so I unfortunately can’t reference or expand on it further at this point.

  108. edweek.org article about security on schools. Somewhat related to this discussion:

    http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/02/24/22wald.h29.html?tkn=UMPFYKxBS5qhfDNuWUX98T7cQIGVJQlfEw6K&cmp=clp-edweek

  109. I think it is coy and naive for people to think that because it was fine with them playing with guns in their childhood, it is fine for kids to do the same today. The world has changed in the last 40 years and parenting needs to adjust too. According to a pro-gun organization itself (http://gunsafe.org/position%20statements/Guns%20and%20crime.htm), gun ownership has tripled in these years. Did you have Columbine after Columbine when you were growing up? Did you used to have under-12s use real guns to shoot when you were kids? It happens often enough these days because guns are so plentiful, that media doesn’t even report it front-page.

    I am not for banning gun-play as it will make it attractive but parents should not encourage it either. At least talk to your kids to tell them guns are dangerous, gun-use is mostly cowardly and what to do if they come across a child or adult with a real gun.

  110. “Did you used to have under-12s use real guns to shoot when you were kids?”

    From what I understand, it was quite common both in the US and here in Australia for kids that young to learn to shoot, especially in rural areas.

  111. Don,
    Yes I was maybe 6 or 7 when I started shooting. Dad was a former Marine, and we had guns in the house. He believed that best gun safety was demystifying them. We were taught how to shoot.

    When I went to sleep away camp, I was told I had to take BB instead of shooting a 22 rifle. I refused to touch the BB gun, until they called Dad and he told me it was Ok. (Dad hated BB guns with a purple passion because people treat them as toys not guns).

    When my friends tried to talk me into showing them Dad’s guns. I told him and he arranged with their parents to take them to our farm and teach them. Yes the guns were under lock and key – but I had figured out how to pick locks from books and TV. So my friends though I would just pick the locks.

  112. Don,

    Yes we had ready access to guns as kids. That was true in the 60’s when I grew up, and it was true for my kids as well. At least in rural areas, guns were not uncommon. Even today it is not unusual here in rural Vermont to have trouble with predators if you raise small animals like sheep or goats.

    We see Columbine after Columbine not because of guns, but because we fail our children. We do not teach them to make moral choices, we do not discipline them, we spend our time fulfilling our own selfish interests instead of helping them grow and mature. We substitute things for love … but all that is an issue for a different subject.

  113. Growing up in the wild west we all had guns. I remember the parking lot at my high school being filled with trucks with guns in the gun rack over the back window. I got my first 22 rifle and shot gun at age 12. No one shot anyone. We all learned at a very early age to respect guns, and what they could do.

    Fast forward to having kids (20 years later) We had a girl and a boy. My wife was from the city and not really comfortable with guns. We opted to not have toy guns in the house. (I had also gotten rid of all my personal fire arms before we married…) Our son made guns out of everything, even though we tried to limit his exposure to the whole idea. It didn’t work. So we have addoped a knowledge is safety aproach. The kids are learning to shoot guns and bows. They are learning to hunt. They understand that when you shoot something it is dead FOREVER. There is no redo, no reset, no multiple lives. What we don’t do is let them play games where they shoot things or people. Training them to kill without thought is BAD. That gives them the wrong reflexes in danger situations.

    People who understand wepons rarely carry them unless they intend to use them for a specific, preplanned thing, like hunting. They don’t shoot someone because “he said…” They KNOW what happens. Teaching kids to understand firearms and what they really do is a way to make them safer. Pretending they don’t exist only makes the world and the kids less safe.

  114. tsk tsk tsk….too bad if its true!

  115. Don’t really know what to say…there are divided opinions on this subject. I think that this really depends on the person and his or her education. Type of personality and so on…
    For example I played a lot with guns when I was little…and I mean A LOT. And now, I don’t feel comfortable killing an insect. This really depends on education and the individual. Sure, in some cases a toy gun may be the starting point of all evil. But who knows..

  116. I deffinatly dont thing that giving your kid a toy gun will turn them into a killer. i know from my own personaly experience that i use to use waterpistol with the family every summer and im deffinatly not a killer..

    I think that in some if a child has grown up around alot of violenc the promoting more violence is probably not a great thing.

  117. Why are we so paranoid ?

  118. Ask to see the state statute. I highly doubt that this is a state law. Sounds like another school official saying “Dont be mad at me, it’s the state.” Politely ask them to show you the law.

  119. No they don’t turn kids into killers. It’s stupid that people think that. People are too sensitive about this whole thing.
    I understand the rule, but the kids were banned from the playground because of sticks? Wtf?! That’s fucin’ gay! I really hope people loosen up on this rule, assholes.

  120. When I was a kid, we all played with toy guns (or sticks as pretend giuns)… And I don’t know anyone that turned into killer from playing like that. Unfortunately, society seems to legislate for the minorities these days… So the rest of us have to suffer and pretend that “playing war games” or “coyboys and indians” etc isn’t normal behaviour for a kid! Anyway toy guns these days (especially Nerfs) are far less dangerous than they were in my day.

  121. For me, toy guns are better than the real thing. I remember when I was a kid, any object could be anything I wanted it to be; a curve-handled hair pick was a pistol, and a tennis racket became a banjo!
    Schools in my area are even worse. In third grade, I had to redraw my Halloween costume poster b/c I drew a lightsaber in Anakin Skywalkers’ hand! I mean, how do you be a Jedi w/out a lightsaber?
    What turns kids into killers is abuse, not weapons. When I was little, me and my friends would play “lightsabers” w/ sticks. We attempted to do the same at school one time, and we found ourselves in the principles office for “fighting”. I was also reprimanded one time, for having rubber vampire teeth in my mouth on Crazy Dress Day, during our Spirit Week my freshman year in high school. I was told that they were too “pointy”. I mean RUBBER teeth!
    Now I’m 18, and me and my dad went to Bass Pros Shop last Wednesday, my dad(54) bought a sling-shot, so “boys will be boys”. I guess the rule is that you have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up.
    It’s total reverse psychology, if somebody tells a child that something’s a “no-no”, then it becomes an automatic attraction. Questions arise: “What does it look like? What does it feel like to hold? Why can’t I have it? How does it work? What makes this object off limits?” These were always the questions that arose when I was little.
    Everything should be taken in moderation, even taboos. When I was about 14, my dad took me out to a shooting range to shoot some guns. I gotta admit, I am kinda scared of real guns. My dads’ .22 “bit” me on the recoil, and now I’m not so fond of real guns. Toys, replicas, Legos, and even BB’s–load ’em up, but keep the real thing far away from me. And when I mean everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I’m of Italian descent, my grandma was from Italy. And so when me and my little cousin were really little, we took bath together (and she’s a girl). I never saw her as a sex object, hell she’s like a sister to me. We fight like bro/sis, we tease each other like bro/sis, we’re both left handed, we both have a lot of traits from our shared grandfather (my before mentioned grandmas’ husband). Not only this, but her, and her little siblings, and me have all had a little bit a wine during special occasions. And now, even though my dad keeps a lot of booze in the house, I’ve never had an urge to drink it; I actually think wine tastes kinda nasty. I had my first beer with my dad at a NASCAR game, (I was 12), so I know from experience that when given a taboo, you don’t usually want more. It may also be because my parents are kinda liberal.
    I’m a bright young man, none of this has affected me in any way, I’m a B student, and I’m on my way to the same college as my schools valedictorian is going to.
    A lot of kids grow out of the weapons stage, and some don’t. I’m not into guns anymore, for me now it’s all about knives! MWUAH HA HA! LOL

  122. when i was at high school 2002-2007 we were allowed to bring toy guns to school. we used them in drama class. this was in the uk. one time someone brought one in that made a bang and smoke came out and used it in drama. bet that wouldnt be allowed now.

  123. we were even allowed to bring them just to play with. only special needs kids brought them in to play with. i helped look after the special needs kids and they were always making guns and other weapons with them and playing shooting games. nobody minded it was harmless fun. these days they probably dont allow that

  124. dud this mite be weird for people here but im a kid and i red every thing i have a lote of toy guns well when i was way youger and for mom and dads that think thare kid should not have a gun well let a kid be a kid thats what i tell my mom and no i dont think it is a real gun but i not guna be a fricken killer and im gana admit to this but sins i liked to clime trees and well do part cor i am going to be a cedet but think about it im laughing how dum this is no kid will be a killer if they play with toy guns,the way i see this is if have you grow up being abused by ur parents you mite me a killer rilly my mom let me use guns and i dont try to kill people and you no he wont ur kid or what ever wont be a killer because one i play with toy guns and im talking to you about this and im not being mean here or useing bad words so try to think abut it

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