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Toy Gun: Loaded Gift?

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Guest blogger Meanest Mom: My 5-year-old son went to a birthday party last weekend and gave the guest of honor a large Supersoaker water gun.  The birthday boy was thrilled; the boy's mother, not so much.  

I was embarrassed and horrified when the mother openly criticized me for giving her son a toy gun.  Truth be told, I didn't think twice when my son picked the toy out at the store. In the sweltering heat of summer, the water gun looked like lots of fun.

The anti-toy gun sentiment that pervades our society is a phenomenon unique to our generation of parents.  When most of us were growing up in the '70s and '80s, the demand for toy guns often exceeded stores' supply.  Remember trying to find a Star Trek phaser around the holidays?  Good luck!

Toy guns have become taboo in our culture, so much so that some toy stores refuse to sell them and many parents ban their children from playing with them.  Like many moms, I started out with a "no-gun" policy in my house.  I abandoned it, however, when my sons started turning household objects--spatulas, coat hangers, and bottles of Windex--into imaginary cowboy pistols.  My point is that most boys develop a deep fascination with weapons at some point in their childhood.  The desire to play with toy guns, knives, swords and the ever popular nunchucks doesn't mean that your son is a murderer in the making, but rather, signals that he is, well, a boy.

Most of us spent our childhoods surrounded by--if not also playing with--plastic revolvers and rifles, yet we didn't grow up eager to arm ourselves with real ones.  What makes us think that it will be any different with our kids?

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37 comments so far | Post a comment now
Shannon August 8, 2008, 1:54 PM

I’ve read your other stuff and normally agree with you but definitely not on this one. If you let your kids play with toy guns, fine. But please don’t give my kid one as a gift. Now I have to be the bad mother that refuses the toy and makes him bring it back to the store.

Not cool.

birdsfly August 8, 2008, 2:42 PM

There is a difference between plastic toy pistol or even water pistols and a SUPERSOAKER. A Supersoaker looks like nothing else, I wouldn’t consider it a gun in the least, it’s a toy. It’s not like you got him a BB or a pea-shooter.

Amber August 8, 2008, 3:10 PM

I wouldn’t let my kids play with any sort of toy gun either. I think gifts like that, these days, the parent buying the gift should call ahead and see if that is an appropriate present.

Jill August 8, 2008, 3:46 PM

Ummm, boys play with toys guns of all types. So for all the uptight mothers, you wouldn’t let your kid play cops and robbers or army, etc. with a toy gun? And I agree with birdsfly, it’s a freakin supersoaker; a water gun. Get a life. Some parents are crazy uptight. Get your panties out of a bunch and let kids be kids. I’m pretty sure your husbands/fathers played with toy guns too.

Shannon August 8, 2008, 6:04 PM

Hey Jill,
Raise your kids and I’ll raise mine. It’s not your job to determine whether my kids should play with guns or not.

Rachel August 8, 2008, 7:05 PM

Has anyone ever heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat?” When one absolutely forbids something it makes the child even more curious. I agree that small children cannot understand what a gun is or what it dangers is. But once a child is old enough to understand what a gun is, what its pro’s and cons is then I believe that as parents we should educate them. If they have never seen or even been told what a gun is and what’s its actions can do how do they know to NOT touch it? It’s a parents job to TEACH their children right from wrong. You cannot always shelter your child so it’s YOUR responsibility to make sure your child knows what dangers is out there and how to act “if” they come face to face with a gun. Just saying no guns will not save them if they accidentally come across a gun while playing at a friends house, but education on what to do may just save their lives. It’s a parents place to teach a child correct behavior and right from wrong and how to be safe in any situation.

Tommy August 8, 2008, 7:18 PM

Hey Jill,

You blog kinda caught my eye, as I have never read you blogs before but I was interested by this one. Growing up my mother and father didn’t allow me to have anything but a watergun, my dad went along with my mom because he grew up with guns. Point is that they expressed their parental concern. Since those short years ago I have fought 1 war and several conflicts, I am a Marine with an honorable discharge. Ive met ALOT of men who played with guns most of their childhood, those men also died/ lived for their country next to me helping me survive to come home to my family. I have 2 boys now and am going to do the correct parental guidance, teaching them about what a guns puproses are and what they have done. You weren’t wrong to let your boy get his friend a toy watergun, the mother should have written directly her requirements on what her son could and couldn’t have. It’s parents who don’t bother to teach their kids that are bad parents. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. It’s like saying when my boys starting making guns with their fingersm what am I suppose to do? Cut their fingers off? That makes me a better parent? The obvious answer is no. You did nothing wrong in this matter. To those who think that guns are automatically the image of satan himself, GROW SOME BRONZE and show our future the responsible thing. As for myself I never played with toy guns growing up and am a war hero! Most of my buddies, yep, war heros to, and they played with pistols, bb guns, and air guns. Keep your head up mam. We support you and agree with you.

Anonymous August 8, 2008, 11:29 PM

There is no problem with children playing with guns if they’re taught about the difference between real life and pretend. And no child should have a toy gun whose parents that don’t take the time to teach their children about guns.

All parents should be smart enough not to give another kid a toy gun. I mean, what were you thinking?

Gilly August 9, 2008, 4:35 AM

I do not allow toy guns in my house. I do, however have any number of supersoakers and the like in my home. Please, let us not confuse a water toy with a toy gun, they are NOTHING alike. But I, too, do not like my son playing with toy guns and yes, he turns things into guns too. And believe me, this is not because he was exposed to them in video games or on tv, I’ve been big on nixing violence in those areas. It’s just a boy thing, it really is. Now, just because I believe one way does not mean the next parent is going to agree so I almost always call parents and tell them what I have in mind before I actually buy it for a bday gift.
As with most things, education is key. Parents don’t need to pretend guns don’t exist. They need to have a talk with their kids about guns and the dangers. Who knows what little Tommy’s parents have in their house that a couple of nosy kids might get into on an overnight visit??? Educate your kids people!

Tommy August 9, 2008, 6:07 AM

On another note, I will add that I mentioned about my father’s interest in guns was just that. In his garage, in a gun safe combo locked, behind another rebar locked gate, behind a locked garage door, he had 4 or 5 registered legal firearms. Not once was I shown them or how to use them. My parents were very protective over this matter. My mom threaten to leave my father if he slipped.

Heather August 9, 2008, 10:14 AM

If playing with toy guns causes our children to want to use real guns as they become teenagers/adults, I suppose it follows that playing with dolls will turn our daughters into unwed teenage mothers. I mean, they play mommy usually without the benefit of ssomeone playing daddy.

I think we should parent and teach right from wrong, but also give our kids a little more credit. The speciese hasn’t changed THAT much in the last few generations…

Anonymous August 9, 2008, 1:20 PM

As a teacher, I’ve seen boys of “non-violent” upbring eat sandwiches into the shapes of guns, use pencils etc.. to point and say bang - bang.

observerist August 9, 2008, 6:49 PM

Where are the fathers on this?

Sounds like a lot of female hoplophobia to me.

(fear of weapons)

Lisa August 9, 2008, 7:53 PM

I can understand being against toy guns that resemble real guns. But a SUPERSOAKER? A friend of mine was totally against letting her son have ANY sort of toy gun. It came back on her because her little guy would turn anything he could find into a gun, such as twigs and building them out of LEGO. It seems like her anti-gun stance made her son seek out toy guns more often than the average boy.

Mom of 3 August 10, 2008, 2:41 AM

Bravo, Tommy, bravo.

May we all raise our children with awareness and education rather than fear that breeds curiosity.

karina August 12, 2008, 12:23 AM

havin a toy gun or a supersoaker does not mean anything they’re not gonna become violents just for playin with toy gungs, beside real GUNGS DON’T KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE!!!!!

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