I've never been a fan of toy guns. It has always made me uncomfortable to see kids playing with them. Bang bang! Shoot 'em up! Aiming at each other. No. With so many other things to play with, why guns? My kids have just turned 3 so it's not a toy we've had to be concerned with just yet, but we're getting there. Maybe the tiny army figurine holding a gun wouldn't be banned in my house, but the full-on, real-looking gun for my kids to play shoot 'em up with? No thanks.
My thoughts against toy guns in my house came before the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, but some parents have decided to ban the toys because of what happened. I'm not talking directly about gun culture in America. I'm talking about toy culture.
I do not believe that what happened in Newtown happened because a kid played with toys guns. I just think it's not something that should be made into a toy. There are no toy maxi-pads, no toy tampons, no toy condoms, and no toy alcohol bottles. I don't think there are toy prescription drug bottles, but I fear there are. There are also toy cigarettes in the form of candy ... at least there were when I was a kid. This is a bad thing. Just like toy guns. Why do we need toy guns?
Well, the answer is simple really. Kids want to play with guns because if it's a toy and exists on a shelf somewhere, or your child went to play at a friend's house and he had a toy gun, then your kid may want to have their very own toy gun, too. What do we do? Do we ban all the toy guns? Make kids get a license to play with them? Tell the parents they have to pinky swear to teach their kids good toy gun play?
Mom of two daughters, Anupy Singla, told Today that she wasn't happy her kids were playing with a revolver-style toy, but let it slide until she saw the coverage of the shootings at Sandy Hook, and threw the toy guns away. "We don’t believe in playing with something that represents something that could be potentially so dangerous," she said.
Eileen Zyko Wolter has two sons -- ages 4 and 7 -- and she collected all their toys guns and stored them high in a closet after the shootings. She said, "I felt like they needed to understand that play guns could lead to real-life consequences. If you’re aiming a play gun and shooting it, you’re practicing shooting at people."
What struck me the most was mom Shun Melson's 7-year-old son's reaction to the shooting. Melson shared that when she explained what happened, her son expressed how very sad he was and he said he never wanted to see another gun again and threw his toy gun in the garbage.
Constance Katz is the co-founder of the child and adolescent psychotherapy training program at the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis & Psychology in New York, and she stressed that just because a child wants to play with a gun doesn't mean that child is or will become violent. She told Today:
Playing with a toy gun is not necessarily a worrisome sign. The focus should not be on playing with guns, it should be on the total emotional life of the child.
I'm still not going to buy my kids toy guns to play with. But there probably will come a day they want one as a toy. Or someone buys it for them as a gift. I'd want to throw it out. Of course, if you tell your child they can't play with something, it often makes them want to play with it more. But in order for my kids to play with a gun, my husband and I would have to lay down some rules. Honestly, just saying that seems wrong. For now, I'm going to stick with the no toy guns policy in my house.
Do you let your kids play with toy guns? Why or why not? Has the tragedy in Newtown caused you to re-think letting your kids play with them?
Image via puuikibeach/Flickr