Boys and Guns

'Gun' photo (c) 2011, Pedro Alonso - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Mim is 8 and recently, his focus has switched from Lightening McQueen and Cars to Luke Sky Walker, Star Wars and Nerf guns.

The dog does her part to discourage the Nerf guns by nibbling on any foam bullets that get left on the floor (I take them from her before she swallows them), but it’s not even the shooting that he’s that enamored of. It’s more about holding the gun, cocking it. He has a Nerf rifle (a gift given to him by a family member with my permission) and the other day, I watched him cock it by dropping it to his side, like some macho military hero. Oh dear Lord I’m raising a Terminator!

Before you jump down my throat. I’m not anti-gun. I’m anti-careless gun use. We don’t have a gun in the house, but that doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t have a gun it yours. So long as guns are cared for and treated with respect, I’m fine with them.

Respect is the issue I’m struggling with. How do I teach Mim to respect guns and their power. I don’t want to restrict his imaginary play by saying “No guns”, but I want to inform it. I understand the feeling of power when you hold a gun. He’s 8, he has so few opportunities to be all powerful and in control, he should be able to do so in his imaginative play. At the same time, imaginative play is where kids work out the issues they are struggling to grasp. It’s where they role play and try on different personas. It is were they practice being citizens of our society. I need him to understand that real guns come with responsibilities and if you aren’t responsible with a gun, there can be real and dire consequences. How do I do that in an age appropriate way?

I also worry in today’s bully aware society that a child who plays at pretending to shoot a gun and says “I’m going to kill you.” could land in real trouble. Mim is not a malicious kid, but he is not always as aware of the feelings of those around him as he could be. At times, he’s downright oblivious. I’d hate for some other child to be scared of him or worse take his play as a serious threat.

There is so much gun violence on TV and in video games. I don’t believe either is inherently bad, but like anything too much exposure to fantasy without any comprehension of reality is unhealthy and counterproductive to functioning as a successful individual in society.

I welcome feedback on this issue so long as it is respectful. You are entitled to your opinion, just as I am to mine. I don’t have to be wrong for you to be right and vice versa. The underlying question I am trying to address is how do I foster a healthy respect for guns in a manor that is age appropriate for an 8 year old and going forward? Be warned, I will delete comments I believe to be inflammatory. It’s my blog, I can do that 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Boys and Guns

  1. We have play guns — even though I was initially against them. We don’t allow talk of killing each other (or themselves) nor are they allowed to talk any kind of super nasty while playing a shooting game. It is meant to be fun, whether Nerf darts or Laser tag at Papau and YiaYia’s house (and soon to be our house as of Christmas, booyah). It means that we have to butt in sometimes when talk takes a turn. It means we have frequent talks about gun safety; remember, we’re a hunting for food type of family, so we have guns though they are locked in our gun safe. BB has been hunting already, though he didn’t shoot. He mostly ate crackers… and talked.

    I think it comes down to anything parenting: lots of on-going conversations and occasional butting in when need be. (And, of course, playing with them. OMG, can’t wait for them to open laser tag.)

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  2. When I was growing up, we were allowed to play “guns” but we weren’t allowed to shoot each other. I know it seems like having your cake and eating it too as parents, but my dad was pretty darn hard core that guns are used for target shooting, hunting and self defense. 

    For the most part, we’ve held to that with our kids. Both the boys like to “shoot” things, but one has certainly expressed more of an interest in violence and the whole “I’m going to shoot your head off” side of things. We work to remind them that this isn’t how we talk and why.

    We also don’t allow them to play any violent video games or watch cartoons with violence that goes beyond Disney movie levels. As they get older, we’ll make judgement calls on the violence/games. I have zero issues letting our eight year old play Lego Batman, but I’d never let them play something that goes beyond cartoon violence…yet.

    We will also train each of our kids in the proper way to handle guns as they get old enough. Our oldest two have both been sat down and given instructions on what a gun is, how it works, why it can be dangerous and how to safely handle them. (Air rifles) They’ve also shot the air rifles. Our youngest will likely get to do this in another year or two when we feel he’s ready.

    We also teach our kids the Eddie the Eagle (NRA program) line of thinking…if they EVER see a gun, they: 1) DO NOT TOUCH IT, 2) FIND a GROWNUP. End of story. Same with matches and other potentially dangerous things.

    We don’t have handguns in our home because we have small kids. We do have rifle, but they are kept fully secure and are stored in a different location than the ammunition is.

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  3. Our plan was to raise non-violent boys. We kept all guns (including water pistols) out of the house.

    What we got were boys who ended up making guns out of sticks. When one particularly ingenious son nibbled a gun out of his toast, we gave up.

    We did draw the line at “realistic” looking guns and a house rule is never to shoot anyone above the neck, but I have to admit, having nerf and water guns in our household has added a lot more fun over the years.

    None of my boys are violent. And although they clearly want to gather as many guns and weapons as they can in the video games they play, none of them are the least bit interested in having a gun in the house.

    Lead and they will follow. 

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  4. As the father of two boys and an avid hunter. I can not suppress the curiosity that my sons have shown. In cubscouts they have been trained in proper use and care of BB guns. I have also brought my oldest to a gun safety class and seminar, not to promote usage but to let him understand the power of these machines. I have also signed both of my sons up for another safety class this upcoming spring. I have spent a great deal of time discussing the safety needed and the consequences that could happen if not followed. It is a deep discussion with a child. I let them play with cap guns around the yard but the rule is “never to point at someone or a living thing.”
    The act of properly using a gun, BB or other is good for concentration of kids in my opinion. It makes them calm down and focus demanding their utmost respect. If my boys act up or don’t listen at a safety class, I do not remove them the instructors will. They then have to show they can behave properly prior to returning for the next class. Gun use is a privelage and needs to be treated that way.It is our opinion that having a child learn the safety will prevent accidents in the future. This has been shown in the past with my older son who found a family friends side arm in his house. He refused to touch the weapon and ran to tell me.

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  5. I have 3 boys and I come from a family of hunters, so guns have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  We were taught and we taught our boys to respect the weapon.  At the age of 8 each of my boys got their 1st BB gun and were taught to use it safely.  Two of the boys went on to get their first 4-10 and eventually a bow.   We taught the boys that real guns are dangerous and able to cause harm or even kill.  But we didn’t put restrictions on nurf guns or the like.  That being said if it looked like a real gun it had to be treated as if it was a real gun but it if clearly was a toy gun such as the Nurf guns or squirt guns that didn’t look real they were able to shoot each other.  We didn’t allow this with plastic guns that look real just so there was on confusion.  Boys are fun but I really could do without the Nurf wars in the house.  LOL

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  6. Interesting topic. Two girls, so not too much interest in guns in this house, except for the uncle who supplied nurf guns and during one game was yelling at one niece “shoot her, shoot her now!” I think being always mindful is half the battle. It’s when you stop paying attention things can get complicated.

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