City Treats Little Kids Like Homicidal Maniacs

toy gunWe already know that moms are a judgy bunch. Your kid can't have a boo boo without someone screaming child abuse (am I right Christina?). But what happens when an entire city puts its judgy pants on and starts pointing fingers? You get the ridiculousness that is a toy gun exchange program.

Hey, I get it, guns are bad 'mkay? Especially in Newark, New Jersey, where Mayor Cory Booker and the anti-violence group Stop Shootin’ Music disarmed kids this past week, giving them "positive toys" in exchange. Positive stuff. Like hockey sticks that they can use to bash their brothers over the head. And Barbies that can leave the girls feeling like crap about their waist size. Yup, this is a great idea.


Oh, I know, Newark's a violent place. But wouldn't you know it, the 71 percent hike in killings reported this spring (over 2010) was tied directly to a reduction in the police force. Not a water gun to be found. No plastic pea shooters either.

Sorry, but what sounds like a great idea on the surface is really just a PR stunt that makes parents feel bad about their normal kids. Try as they might, scientists haven't been able to find a real link between kids playing with toy guns and a propensity for violence in their later days. Child development experts have even -- gasp -- found benefits to gun play among the pint-sized. It's considered a harmless phase, provided parents treat it as such.

Truth be told, I'm not big on gun play in my house. But it's not because I fear that I'm raising a serial killer. Any kid will take any toy and turn it into a weapon. Just sit in a daycare for 5 minutes and watch a cranky 2-year-old smack their buddy with a toy truck. Now tell me that toy guns are what's making kids violent.

My bigger concern is where I live: in a rural area, where hunting is a favorite pastime of many of her little friends' parents. She will see guns in her life. I want her to respect them as the dangerous weapons they are, not as toys.

We don't allow guns in the house (save for the water variety), but I'm not naive enough to think she won't encounter them at playdates or (here's a novel idea) use her finger! So we have rules. She is never to point a gun at someone, even when they're playing. Water guns are the obvious exception, but we have had long talks about what makes them different. She's also never to touch a gun of any sort -- toy or otherwise -- without first asking an adult. That way there's no chance that she mistake the two.

The toy gun exchange might have gone over well in Newark, but parents who think this is a great idea need to step back and ask themselves: is it playing with toy guns that's such a problem or playing with toy guns without parental guidance?


Image via ganesha.isis/Flickr

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