Even though I’m a professional writer who is paid to put thoughts into words on the page, it is difficult for me to articulate why children shouldn’t play with toy guns. Because of course children shouldn’t play with toy guns. Formulating this argument feels the same to me as justifying why children shouldn’t play in traffic. It’s obvious. Painfully so.
We are living in a country where children shoot children — sometimes a kid at a time accidentally, sometimes in mass numbers with full intent. More often than I can comprehend, children shoot children in school, a place where our youngest citizens should feel safe. You can cite mental health issues, and you can tell me that these are extreme cases. But I strongly believe that giving realistic-looking toy guns to children so they can pretend to kill each other has to be part of the problem.
I am well aware that my opinion is not everybody’s opinion. There are plenty of people who not only disagree with me but do so vehemently, with millions of dollars of NRA support behind them.
I get that gun culture is a thing, but not in my house, not in my extended family and not in my circle of friends. OK, as I type this I can’t help but wonder: Is gun culture indeed a thing somewhere deep in my circle of friends, and maybe I’m just blissfully unaware? Yes, perhaps. But here’s how anti-gun I am: If somebody wants to unfriend me because of how I feel about guns, good effing riddance.
My kids are 16 and 18 now, but when they were little, Sophia and Jackson did not play with toy guns. Their dad and I never bought toy guns, my kids never asked for toy guns, and toy guns were never given to them by grandparents or birthday party guests.
But then again, my kids are rainbow-wearing, dove-loving peaceniks. Sophia was a girly girl growing up and Jackson prefers board games over backyard football. So I asked my brother and sister-in-law, who are raising a rough-and-tumble boy, if 6-year-old Grady has guns. No, his mom told me, as we watched him practice lightsaber maneuvers on the beach. No, his dad repeated as Grady karate-kicked the sand. Guns are not toys.
Later, as Grady, his 8-year-old sister Riley and my two teens played Go Fish, the adults returned to the subject. We tried to imagine why someone might think it’s fine to hand their precious offspring a realistic-looking toy gun and not flinch when the kid pointed it at his sister, pulled the trigger and yelled, “You’re dead!”
“Maybe some parents let their kids play with toy guns so they’ll learn safe handling techniques?” my sis-in-law offered charitably. No, we all quickly decided. A toy gun is typically played with out of any adult’s view. Mom won’t be there to say, “Make sure it’s unloaded before you put it away,” or “Hey, don’t aim that at the dog’s face.” If a parent genuinely wants their children to learn about gun safety, the logical move is to sign them up for a certified firearm training class, where real guns are treated with respect, not tossed into the toy chest at bedtime.
In a world where kids are walking into school wearing backpacks stuffed with bullets instead of books, this is no longer a shrug-and-do-what-we’ve-always-done situation. Guns. Are. Not. Toys.
Give us your ‘two cents’ in the comments and be sure to read why another local mom would let her kids play with toy guns.