Do we plant the seeds of violence by letting our children play with guns?
It’s a question that’s been on my mind for a few weeks now, ever since R came home with a stick shaped like a gun.
I don’t even remember where he found it—on the playground or in the woods behind our yard, maybe?—but that really isn’t what bothered me. What upset me was that he found a stick shaped like a gun, identified it as a gun, and started playing with it as a gun.
When he showed it to me, he looked sheepish, as if he knew how I would react. He wasn’t surprised when I whisked the stick out of hands, and he hasn’t asked for it back.
My husband and I don’t purchase toy guns—not even water pistols—for R or G. I even take away the blasters from the Lego Star Wars sets before R can play with them. Perhaps that’s dramatic, but I’m convinced that letting kids play with guns implies consent for and support of a gun culture. I don’t want that.
Our young kids don’t understand political convictions; they need explanation and education. So, any time guns have come up in conversation, we talk about how they are dangerous. They are not for kids, only adults, we explain.
I asked R why I hadn’t wanted him to play with that stick. “It was a gun, Mommy.”
“And why doesn’t Mommy want you to play with guns?” I asked.
“Because guns hurt people,” he answered, twirling a Matchbox car in his hands.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but the fact that guns even come in my conversation with my 5 year old is part of the problem. We’ve had to have those conversations because once your kids go to school you lose control—to an extent—of what they’re exposed to, and other kids with older siblings, unfortunately, know about things like battles, bad guys, and guns.
As we’ve heard so much in the news, on the heels of Newton, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and other mass shootings, as well as accidental shootings involving children, the US has more guns per capita than any other country. Guns remain the most common murder weapon in the United States.
What to do, then, about kids and toy guns?
For us, it’s banning them from our house. I don’t know if that will prevent my children from being exposed to the violence that is pervasive in our culture. I hope, though, it’s a start and that sets a foundation for peace and nonviolence. But, I just don’t know. And, that I think, is what worries me the most.