On Guns and Kids

I was at the Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo on Saturday, taking my mother-in-law to get new glasses.  On our way down to the office, we walked by a woman pushing a four year old in a stroller.  Now her child may not have been four – he could have been a big toddler.  But he looked four years old to me.  I’ll admit that I thought he was too old to be in stroller, but that didn’t bother me.  What bothered me was what was in his hands.  The little boy had a plastic gun – that he was pointing at everyone and “shooting” them. 

Why does a little boy need a gun?  I’ve heard of gun-obsessed boys from my old Mother’s club.  I’ve also watched shows, like Nanny 911, where violent toys are discouraged.  The point was that a creative child can – and will – create a sword, gun, laser, out of anything.  Blocks, legos, paper towel rolls, their thumb and pointer finger, etc.  But after the child has had his fill of the violence, the “gun” can be taken apart and the legos or blocks or whatever can be used for another purpose.

Armed with some gut feeling that toy guns and kids are just a wrong combination, I decided to do a little research and see if I can find information on both sides that would help me make an informed decision.  My google search resulted in all sorts of information.   I stumbled across many articles that were against kids and guns.

The feminist in me agreed with this one:

Buying toy guns for kids seems completely natural to millions of American parents. Yet, the same parents would not even think about buying guns for their little girls. When we encourage boys to play with guns, we must question whether or not we’re socializing them to be violent.

And this one:

I can see wher Karfung comes from with his arguement that children should be allowed to play with toy guns – but there are many things that childrent shouldn’t do.  Children, for example, shouldn’t have sex, but you don’t give little girls a dildo so they can get used to how penises are used.

And the anti-war advocate in me found this one very thought-provoking:

On Baghdad’s dusty streets, Iraqi children are playing make-believe war games inspired by the Shiite-Sunni conflict, a development that shows the depth of the city’s rapid and violent breakup along sectarian lines.  … Some Iraqis worry that the war games are contributing to an increase in aggressive behavior among children, many of whom are losing interest in their schoolwork. It’s hard to tell whether war games — or the general state of life in Baghdad — are to blame.

Anything that was actually pro toy-guns, I couldn’t find it.

I did find a tongue in cheek question on Yahoo: If toy guns are banned, how will our kids play Cowboys and Indians?  The thing that cracked me up, was that it was posted in the UK – where, last time I checked, didn’t have very many cowboys and “Native Americans”.  But still, the comments were a little lack luster and didn’t provide any argument that was pro-guns for kids.

I did find an interesting editorial on why to talk to your kids about gun safety and the importance of education on the topic:

Maybe there is no gun in your house and never will be because you hate guns. The fact remains that one out of two American homes has a gun. That means that 50% of the homes your child visits contains this instantly lethal weapon. Chances are the neighbors on both sides of your home have a firearm. You can chose to ignore it, and let blind chance control your child’s fate, or you can act right now, educate yourself and your children about gun safety, and give them a fighting chance.

And lastly, a more well-rounded approach to the issue:I would be far more concerned about teaching him tolerance for diversity and resolving conflict through non-violent means than I would about his occasional fantasy gunplay. I would also suggest limiting his exposure to and involvement in violent programming and games. Express and model your values regarding getting along with others. I played with stick guns and toy guns as did your husband. I’d like to think I turned out OK too. We need to provide our sons with ways to be boys and men that do not demand their being aggressive, physically powerful, and dominant.  

If 70% of Americans feel that having a toy gun is “never ok“, where are the other 30% of parents that think it is fine?  Are they too afraid to talk about the issue?  Or do they think it is a non-issue and we are all wasting our breath and energy with bans on toy-guns?   

Can we talk about this issue without it turning into another mommy-war?

  1. August 2, 2011
  2. August 5, 2011
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