Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Toy guns has been an issue with me since Colin's birth. I grew up in a family of all girls - hence we never had any toy guns, or toy swords, or any toy that mimicked violent actions. James grew up in a family of all boys, so toy guns were an extension of their hands.

My natural tendency is to not allow these types of playthings in our house. I would hope my boys would understand the difference between fantasy and reality, and confusion between the two is not why I don't want toy guns in my home. I just don't personally like the idea of shooting another person for fun.

As I talk with friends who have older children (mostly boys), I realize that there is something hardwired in boys to play with guns. One friend spoke of how she didn't allow any toy weaponry in her home, and then one day her son bit his peanut butter and jam sandwich into the shape of a gun and "shot" his brother across the kitchen table. Other friends have stories about how even if there aren't guns, they will pick up tree branches, hockey sticks, recorders or pretty much anything at their fingertips and use it as a gun.

Some friends laughed at the notion of trying to keep toy guns out the of house; other friends claimed they are still holding fast to their rules and doing what they can. In the whirlwind of conversation, I find myself agreeing with both points of view and seeming to lose my own standing as I'm tossed back and forth in the debate.

Most boys have natural aggression pent up in their little bodies, and need a way to release it. And certainly all references to violence don't automatically translate into hurting another human being. That being said, as a parent I know I have the right and responsibility to guide my children the best I can.

And so my current stance (and somewhat of a compromise with James) stands as: no toy guns, but those Super Soaker Blaster waterguns might find their way into the backyard toy bin.


heather80 said...

Since my Dad was a hunter and target shooter, we had REAL guns in our house, which we were, of course, not allowed to touch, AND knew about gun safety. Consequently, we were allowed toy guns, but they could NEVER be pointed at another person, not even a finger gun. In our house, guns were not for hurting people. By 10 or so, I'd already shot a real gun (target shooting), and knew what guns SHOULD be for. The concept of pretend shooting a person was such a bizarre thought to me.

Terri-Ann said...

This is exactly the rational point of view that I agree with. I'm afraid too often anti-violent point of view come off as anti-guns, which is ludicrous. And yet if you handed a toy gun to a child today, I find it unlikely he would play with it without aiming at a playmate. And it is this idea, pretending to shoot a brother or sister, that I find commonplace and repulsive.

You've made a good point about the role of parents. Shielding children from everything does not inform them, and although they likely don't need to witness a war to understand what guns really do, I can see now the importance of teaching them about the reality and safety of guns.

I have never shot a gun. Actually, I've never even really considered what it would be like to use a gun.

I'm interested in what your "fun play" was like, if not pointed at each other. Was it simply an accessory for a game, or did you pretend to be hunting?

heather80 said...

We never actually played pretend guns, that was just the rule. Closest we came was shooting elastics off our fingers (but again, not even allowed to POINT it at someone else). I do think it's more important to teach gun safety than it is to just say no guns. There was a study done that I learned about in university where they took a child who had had, "We don't EVER touch guns!!" HAMMERED into him, and put a gun (obviously unloaded) into a toy bin to see what he would do when he found it. He immediately picked it up and pretended to shoot another child, to his mother's horror. I know for a fact that had that been me as a child, I would have not touched the gun, kept other children from it, and alerted the nearest authority figure. Not only that, but I also knew how to make sure a gun was unloaded, and I know how to tell if a bullet was safe or not. This having been said, that rule was not, "Check and see if it's safe." it was, "Assume any gun IS loaded, and leave it alone." I don't think all children need to know how to check if a gun is unloaded, or a bullet is live, but keeping them away from guns entirely, and not teaching them anything but stay away, just breeds curiousity. Guns were old hat in our house. We'd seen them, they were smelly and boring. They were also locked away safely, both in a cabinet/case AND in a locked room, but we wouldn't have touched them even if they weren't. We were also told to immediately tell my dad if any friends showed an interest in them, or asked us to get them, as that was not okay. Before you came to my cottage, my dad talked to your parents and told them that he would be bringing guns with him, what safety measures he was taking, etc., your parents said as long as YOU didn't touch the gun (he wouldn't have let you anyway), it was fine. I don't have an interest in guns, but I have a respect for them. I know which laws are good, and which laws are a big waste of money. I still know about gun safety (I had to take an entire course and pass a test before I could target shoot when I was in middle school). Guns were not toys in our house, and even toy guns (which we never had an interest in, but were allowed to own) were treated with respect.