Boys and Guns

We are not “gun people.”  Let me start over.  What I mean to say is that my husband and I are not gun people.  Our son, apparently is.  The neighborhood kids (ALL of them!) are gun people, and have toy squirt guns, paint ball guns, cowboy pistols, cap guns, bb guns, etc.  We have never bought Woob a toy gun and really didn’t want to start, though it seems there’s something deep seeded and primal about his want of one.

What are your thoughts?

  • Is it in boys’ very nature to want to play with guns, so it shouldn’t be fought?
  • Is it okay for kids to play with guns at the neighbors’ houses even if we don’t like them at home?
  • Should gun use away from our own home be stopped?
  • Should we just get over and register for a “Family Fun with Guns” safety course at our nearest neighborhood shooting range?


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14 responses to “Boys and Guns

  1. Hi there – first time commenter (I think anyway) 🙂 I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now and I really appreciate your thoughtful posts.

    As for the gun thing, just to throw an opinion out there, I, personally, would think there’s a line between playing with a toy gun that looks like a gun and is meant for your son to run around trying to “kill” people -i.e. game playing that is influenced by violent movies or video games, etc. But something like a water gun with the pumps that are just used to spray people, I would think are more harmless (and quite fun).

    I guess that if he’s going to be playing with other kids and will be subjected to their games/toys, then the best thing to do is explain to him your thoughts on guns and why you don’t like them? Then again I’m not quite sure how old he is, and since I don’t have any children of my own yet, I’m not sure at what age they really start to absorb lessons like that.

    Just throwing my two cents in! 🙂

    • M.

      Hi, Leigh! Thanks for coming to visit and comment.

      ~sigh~ I know there’s a difference…I’m just so darn resistive 🙂 We were out and about yesterday with neighbors and he was playing with some sort of squirt gun oozi type thing without the water (we called it an AIR gun so he wouldn’t be begging for some water!). He’s three. I suppose we are doing a fairly good job, because when another little boy pointed his gun at Woob, Woob came and told me about it, so he knows at least you aren’t to point it at people.

      I feel like such a hipocryte letting him play with them out with his little friends, but not willing to buy one for him myself…

  2. I have a blogpost draft that I have begun, talking about dealing with some issues like this.

    My personal feeling is that kids playing with guns is not a productive or positive thing. I’m not saying I did not play sheriff, Army guys/gals or have squirt gun fights when I was young. I even enjoyed the riflery activities at summer camps or when my Army Colonel dad took me once to the shooting range at the base for target practice.

    If it promotes violence toward people, I do not want to encourage my son to use these types of toys. I do not like it when our friend’s son comes over to play, and 50% of whatever he picks up becomes a weapon. I ask him not to point the toy at people or pretend he is hurting people.

    That said, I think a water toy (aka gun) can be fun. If it’s done in the spirit of soaking someone who wants to be soaked. NOT if we’re pretending to shoot someone down……

    I would prefer my son not play with toy guns. If I”m around when he’s at someone else’s house and play like this begins, then I step in an offer an alternative way to have fun. Some day, he will be going on play dates alone. I hope he has a healthy sense of why it’s not okay to pretend to hurt people…..

    What used to be awfully black and white is getting more grey to me – where exactly do I draw the line? And some people say, “Well, you can rule out toy guns, but the kid will use sticks/pencils/silverware/his own finger and shoot anyway…”

    Very thought-provoking issue, this is.

  3. Oh, you’d probably be horrified if you came to our house. Sean’s grandmother decided to reorganize our toy room one time when she was over. Ever since then, I have had a plastic tub labeled “weapons” in my basement(mostly full of things like light sabers and whatnot).

    We do have some toy guns, though. The current favorites are a couple of bright orange double-barrel shotguns that shoot foam darts with suction cups on the end.

    The toy guns really don’t bother me. We talk to our kids about the difference between toy guns and the real thing. They know we own a real gun (which is kept in a locked safe with a safety lock on it). My experience is that boys will play “guns” and “swords” and other weapons whether they have toy ones or not. They’ll just end up shooting each other with sticks.

    As always, I think you just do what feels right for you and don’t worry about what other people think of your decision. But if it’s a question of whether or not it encourages violence? Well, I grew up shooting BB guns and arrows and shredding paper bags with a bullwhip for fun, and I’ve yet to shoot up any office buildings. 😉

  4. thanksgivingmom

    I’ve got nine nephews that are seven and under. None of them have ever really been “encouraged” to play with guns – as in parents being the first to buy them, etc. But after playing at neighbors houses, the boys started to play with guns without having ANYTHING as a prop! Those tiny little pointer fingers and thumbs will suffice when necessary it seems! And is it just me, or do boys genetically have the ability to make gun noises? While I can’t get anywhere near mastering that sound!

    Anyway, once it seemed that we couldn’t fight these nine little boys and their interest in playing games that included their fake guns – it became about controlling the game. Guns are never pointed at people OR even pets! (Though with water guns, they’re allowed to ask permission to shoot the water at people). If toy guns are in the home they’re always brightly colored, like the neon VERY fake looking guns. There aren’t any guns in video/computer games.

    Having said all that, you have to do what works for YOUR family. My experience, however, is that if kids are going to be exposed to it anyway, you need to have a plan of action for teaching/dealing with that. Even if you don’t allow the “guns” in your home, you should still probably talk to Woob about how he plays with guns at the homes of others.

    Lastly, my guess is Woob has PLENTY of toys at your home and that he’s not lacking in the “play” department 🙂 So if he doesn’t have “guns” in your home, that’s fine!

  5. If you aren’t comfortable with guns in your home then explain to woob why you aren’t. However be aware that he will play with guns. He’ll make a gun with his finger, he’ll chew his sandwich into the shape of a gun.

    Guns themselves don’t lead to violence, but rather the attitude regarding other humans leads to violence. Since you aren’t in a home where guns are held up as a killing tool, they aren’t going to be seen as a killing tool.

    If you want to really instill that guns are for target practice, you might consider something like this

    All this being said we are gun people. We like to hunt and shoot. But our kids don’t play with toy guns. We want to make sure they know guns aren’t toys. Guns are serious adult stuff. So when they DO see a child with a gun they will remove themselves from the situation to find out if the gun is real or not.

  6. Funny how the gun thing really seems to be a boy issue….one that I will be faced with in a few short years.

    So here’s the thing–apparently my parents weren’t gun people. Growing up, I had NO IDEA. But apparently, my brothers didn’t have many toy weapons. I remember one “pistol” that went to a cowboy outfit,and then some GI Joe action figures, but that’s it.

    They never made a big deal out of it–I don’t know if my bros asked for guns or if they were just steered in other directions, but it wasn’t a huge deal.

    At school, of course, we allow no guns or anything to be allowed to be “turned into a gun”. When the kids ask why, I simply say that guns hurt people, and we don’t pretend to hurt people. It works in a preschool classroom just fine.

    Personally, I’m thinking my kids will be allowed to play with other kid’s toys at their house, but our house will probably be pretend-weapon free!!

  7. We’re going through this now with our just 4 year old- he’s recently into guns, and my position is this: he can play pretend guns all he wants with his fingers, sticks, whatever (as long as its safe); but i’m not buying any toy guns. a hand can be many things (including a gun), but a toy gun is only used as a gun. that said, i do NOT want him thinking we can’t talk about guns or violence, or even acting out pretend violence (the other night he asked me to incorporate guns into our nightly fairy story, and i obliged… kinda). I don’t want him thinking any topic is forbidden with me, so he needs to know i’m not uncomfortable with it; I just have a certain line (in the sand admittedly). When he goes to other kids’ houses he follows the rules of said house- and if there are toy guns, then so be it. I tell him every mama and papa allows/ doesn’t allow different things, and he appears to understand that concept already.

  8. Coco

    I know how to shoot and I don’t think guns are intrinsically bad, though we do not own one. That being said, in this day and age I think it is safer for kids to NOT have any toy that closely resembles a real weapon.

    Bean has exactly two gun-like toys: a Buzz Lightyear “blaster” that I told him is broken because it’s so annoying and a water gun that has pump action. Both are bright plastic toys that could never be mistaken for real guns and he isn’t allowed to “shoot” anyone. He also isn’t allowed to watch any show with guns or shooting or fighting. And yet? I hear him out in the yard all the time making “pew pew pew” sounds as he waters the flowers with his water gun. I have to think some of it is just hard-wired boy. 🙂

    Do what you think is right. I don’t think you’ll be able to eliminate it, but you can talk with Woob about what the rules are for your family and he’ll understand.

  9. A friend of mine JUST went through this with her 3 year old. We are NOT gun people either, and although we haven’t crossed this bridge yet (I’m so dreading this!), I don’t think I’m ok with my kids playing with guns as guns. I think I’d draw the line where you have too – never to be pointed at people, never pretend to be shooting a person, etc. Ideally, my kids will never play with guns of any sort, toys or other. But I don’t think that’s totally realistic unless I never let them have friends.
    The friend of mine who just dealt with this was really helped out by a teacher in her son’s preschool class who outlawed violent play in the classroom – no Batman talk, no pretend guns, no pretend swords, etc. So the teacher really drove home the message that that kind of play is NOT ok and would not be tolerated. My friend, then, was able to use the school’s policy as her basis for confronting another family who always allowed their kids to play with toy guns to shoot people, etc., when her son was there on playdates. Sorry if that made no sense…i’m on no sleep today and not even coffee can fix my brain!
    Great topic, btw.

  10. SparkyWD

    * Is it in boys’ very nature to want to play with guns, so it shouldn’t be fought?

    Fight it if you want, but don’t expect it to go away completely.

    * Is it okay for kids to play with guns at the neighbors’ houses even if we don’t like them at home?
    * Should gun use away from our own home be stopped?
    * Should we just get over and register for a “Family Fun with Guns” safety course at our nearest neighborhood shooting range?

  11. SparkyWD

    * Is it in boys’ very nature to want to play with guns, so it shouldn’t be fought?

    Your call, but if you do try to keep it out of the house don’t expect it to work all the time.

    * Is it okay for kids to play with guns at the neighbors’ houses even if we don’t like them at home?

    Do you really think you can stop them?

    * Should gun use away from our own home be stopped?

    Do you really think you can stop them? Are you prepared to disassociate yourself with families who don’t feel the same as you do about guns? If not, then you’ll have to accept that boys will play with guns as props.

    * Should we just get over and register for a “Family Fun with Guns” safety course at our nearest neighborhood shooting range?

    Absolutely – IF it’s age appropriate. If kids don’t know what to do if they find a real gun (always possible at other houses) then they are a danger to themselves and others. The NRA Eddie Eagle education program gets good reviews and is simple.

    If you see a gun:

    Don’t Touch.
    Leave the Area.
    Tell an Adult.

    Besides, shooting targets is fun. You might be surprised.

    Your mileage may vary, but as long as the fake/real difference is emphasized and shooting people for fun is understood to be bad, then you’ll probably be ok. I’d worry more about swimming pool safety than gun safety, but that’s just me.

    • M.

      Hi, Sparky-
      For the MOST part I was just venting my frustration and talking kind of tongue in cheek about the whole thing. Its just crazy to me how it does seem hardwired into little boys heads. I know I can’t protect him from seeing or acting or playing guns with other kids. As long as he has fingers, then he has “guns”. And yes, this summer I did even buy him some water guns for outside. But I think you’re absolutely right that we should be teaching gun safety even when we don’t have them in the house ourselves.

  12. SparkyWD

    Sorry for the double post. Jr. hit a key while I was typing.

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