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i would't worry about the gun making adam more/less violent - as long as he cannot be hurt by it, i think its fine. for some reason, i think i'd react exactly the same way as you. its fine in our comfort zone, just not in other people's faces...

i think its more about you being considerate to others feelings: there are a lot of anal moms out there who would freak out about it so i think you're dealing with it 100% okay.

It is all about how you direct the conversation. If there are rules, and the gun is not pointed at people and there is talk of how and why one might use a gun (age appropriate) then it can be ok. I live in Canada - so no guns is the usual rule (outside of hunting or police persons). That said, my four year old has been known to make guns out of lego. And has never seen one. In real life or on tv (that I know of). You do the best you can. Good luck!

We prefer our boy not to play with toy guns, so we have a policy that we don't buy him toy guns. But I recognise that he has his fingers and other kids have toy guns, so we're not anal about it. Only fight the battles you can win.
Anyway, he's recently started a new school and now runs around shooting everything.

Damn good aim, considering the lack of practice.

Seriously, I did not encourage toy guns, but they made their way into the toy boxes over the years without any hassle. Boys are fascinated with guns. When my son had no toy guns he shot shit with sticks, spoons, his fingers and more. I have never owned a gun and carried firearms under duress in De Klerks weermag. I am rabidly anti war. One of the many things I detest so the guns are a surprise.

I either have a serial killer in the making, a toilet mechanic or a world famous scientist that will cure cancer. who knows?

I would love to see what people say, cos while it has never bothered me, my husband has vehemently said no to toy guns. Matti plays with his fingers/sticks etc, and "pew-pew" at things anyway....

i would prefer not to buy them for amelia - we think she has too much evil potential (hell, she saw five minutes of kung fu panda and was ass kicking her dad immediately), but we recently visited some friends who have 3 boys that have swords, light sabres, and viking axes (all plastic of course, but the viking axe has sound effects and flashing lights to amp up the gore). she LOOOOOOVED those things, attacked the boys (7, 5 and 1 year older than her) non-stop and with gusto, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

i don't think it made her more violent, but man she loves the memory. i am taking her to see a friend get his black belt in aikido in a few weeks time, so might live to regret it (they too use swords and stuff) . . . will let you know!

No guns. Nerf "arrows" and water shooters exempted. If either child wants to "make" one out of a stick or lego, then at least it took a bit of brain work and the power of imagination. More importantly, it doesn't look like a gun. Nobody breaking into my house will mistake it for a gun. My children won't be shot while playing with it, because somebody thinks they have a gun.

I find it interesting that people I know who take part in hunting or jobs that involve being armed, do not have such a casual attitude towards firearms. There are armed a-holes, of course, as there are in all things. But the people out there who respect what a gun is for and what it can do, are not the ones who have accidents or let it fall into the wrong hands. They don't encourage them being viewed as toys, either.

When my children are older, should they wish, I will hand them over to a long time friend and experienced hunter. They will be taught the proper care of a gun, what it should be for, and why. But it will never be glamorized or thought of as a toy.

I'm equally anal about camo. War may be a necessary evil, but it should never be a trendy fashion statement.

Tough one. BIL's son shot actual animals from the age of 2 months (just about) and I don't like guns. I do acknowledge that toy guns are a fact of life, but as long as D is happy to play with his sisters' tea set thats ok. Hey rather "pink" than a serial killer :-)

No toy/water guns for our son. I grew up spending time in the country and loved target shooting at an early age. In addition, I have family on both sides that hunt. Today I do not live in an environment to teach target practice or let my son go hunting. My view is that guns can be for good or bad, but not play. In my opinion he is too young (the same age as yours) to understand either. He knows police officers carry guns and some people hunt with guns. He is also aware that guns can hurt and kill. We do not make a big deal about "no guns" and he does have any interest in them. When he is old enough to pursue an interest in guns then we will address it. I do not believe that playing with toy guns necessarily leads to a violent outcome. They are just not part of our life.

All boys will play with guns. If you give it to them or not. But I would not let my child walk around with a gun, because next time he is at a friends house. The friend takes out a "weal gun with weal bullets" (so cute) and then my child will not recognize that as a danger. So I would allow him to have the gun but only when he is supervised by an adult. I feel children need to be taught how and to respect guns. As you never know when they will come across a gun.

I see no harm in toy guns, but to allow him to treat a "weal" gun, even if just an air rifle or BB gun as a toy is not a good idea. Rather use his ownership of it as an opportunity to teach the difference between toy guns and real guns. Get someone like his father or grandfather to let him actually shoot with it under safe, controlled conditions, and show him the damage it can inflict. Then explain how real guns are dangerous and that's why it should be locked away and only brought out to shoot, never to play with.

Tough one this - we don't allow toy guns in our house, but we cannot prevent cousins, friends etc from having them. What I do is when my children pick up toy guns when playing with friends, or even when friends point toy guns at my kids, I gently take it away from whomever has the gun and say "guns are bad, they can hurt people lets play with something else". I probably sound like the anal mom, but, my concern is that children cannot tell the difference between toy and real, so one day they might just pick up a real gun and accidently shoot a friend as there is always someone who accidently left his/her gun in a place where the kids can get access.

Delurking to say, having lived in South Africa in the late nineties,and early noughties my concern is the gun in the car rather than the gun per say. I know it's not a 9mm and you don't live in Gauteng but I wouldn't want to give anyone outside the car the idea that you had the ability to shoot them! Bugger the parents!

I hate it when other parents get all judgemental, but I'd be like you. I'm not completely against toy guns, but I wouldn't let my boys bring it to school either.

For me it's about the culture of guns. We are lucky to live in Canada. No one I know owns a gun for self protection. No one. Some for hunting maybe. I wouldn't buy my kid a toy gun and if it were given as a gift I wouldn't take it away (but would probably worry about it and then quietly make it disappear)
There is a stark difference to how people feel about guns in the States. It is a dramatic shift and relatively speaking in Canada we do not have the kind of gun violence that happens south of the border. Why? gun culture and the relative ease with which anyone can get a gun in the States. I was horrified to see guns being sold in department stores in America but that is just a reflection of a different attitude in Canada.
I lived in Israel where everyone has a gun but they have a culture where guns are respected and people know how to use them (and shooting sprees / accidental gun deaths are very rare) .. partly because everyone - ladies too! - serve in the military.
I guess you need to ask what sort of culture of guns do you want the kids to be exposed to ...

I started out very anti toy guns, but have mellowed a lot over the years (I have 2 boys, 11 and almost 14). Now, its mostly no realistic looking guns. If it could potentially look like a real gun, then NO. Water guns, all bright colored and such have always been fine. My kids also have the foam or plastic swords, axes, light sabers and such and all that is fine by me. I've even bought some of those.

No air rifles here though. I talked to a mom just last month whose kid almost lost an eye with one. Went out with eye protection, but took it off and Yep, got hit in the eye. Too scary for me!

It's a myth that toy guns will make your child more aggresive... I played with toy guns as long as I can remember! It's just important to educate your children about the real thing and make them aware of everything involved.

I think kids will always want what they can't/not allowed to have. Let Adam get the fascination out of his system and you'll probably find in a few weeks time it will just be "that old gun"...

When I was younger, I wanted to be a cowboy so I had lots of toy guns (including cap guns, remember those caps that made a popping sound). I was never allowed to point my toy guns at anyone. But my Dad also had real guns in the house (in a safe mind you), so one day, just to teach us respect for guns, he took us with him to the target range. That taught us about the noise and damage that a real gun makes. It worked, I have never gone near a real gun, and will leave the room if I know someone is armed or has a gun there (or be exceedingly friendly to them). I believe that TV shows breed a type of immunity to guns which is when children start to play with them irresponsibly. If you can teach them somehow about the impact of a real gun, it will just teach them about the difference between real life and games. Also, you should be the controller of the bullets, and always be present when they are being shot.

An elementary school boy in Connecticut (saw it quickly on TV the other day so I'm not sure of all the details) was almost suspended from school for bringing in a gun made for Lego's. It was not made OF Lego's, it was a (possibly) 2" long plastic gun made to be carried by one of those tiny Lego people.

Two middle schoolers were just suspended (and held in Juvenile Hall) for bringing two loaded pellet guns to school. Other kids knew they had them in their backpacks and notified authorities. The entire school was locked down for hours.

Maybe a chat with Adam's teacher would clear things up?

Toy guns, OK...real guns...no way, even pellet guns. My husband as wanted to get a hand gun to keep in the house and I will not allow it; not with children in the house. Although maybe not deadly, pellet guns will still do harm if shot at person. Kids are kids and will often do what they are told not to do (ie point a gun at someone). A friend of mine had to have stomach surgery to remove a BB from her instestines when she was 4....after being shot at by her brother!

My opinon has nothing to do with the psychology of playing with guns...I think thats BS. For me its just plain safety! Kids are curious and I don't need my daughter looking down the barrel of a gun wondering what it is / does.

I don't have any set opinions about guns (they freak me out in general, but shooting pellet and BB guns is a lot of fun), but the fact that Adam wants to bring it to school and brought it out to show his friends at the door strikes me as an indication that he might not be ready for a "weal" gun. If he can follow very clear rules about when and under what circumstances the gun can come out/be used (and I'd go very conservative with these, as others have pointed out that some day he may be faced with a REAL gun and will be apt to treat it similarly - e.g. only with a parent, only to pretend to shoot cans and not pointed at people, no casually carrying it around or putting it in a pocket) then I'd be OK with it, but if not he might be too young to play safely with a toy gun.

Long time reader, frequent lurker, had to post on this one.

I don't have a problem with OTHER people having guns, but I don't want them in my house. My paternal grandfather committed suicide with a shotgun when my father was 14. I can't help but wonder if I might have gotten to meet him if there hadn't been a gun in the house. Guns are so FINAL. There is no turning back. Anyway, not the topic here.

I have a son who is two, so I've pondered how I will deal with this. I've decided that I don't have a problem with him having a toy gun, sword, etc. but my one caveat is that it can't look WEAL. (Or real). I've heard too many stories about people mistaking play guns for real guns and horrible things happening. So as long as it is neon green, plastic looking, has a cartoon character on it, etc. I *think* I will be okay with it.

I hate the idea of 'forbidding' something when the intention is innocent. It seems like that might line a child up to want it even more!

Looking ahead though, let me tell you, my step son (17 years old) and I had it out this summer. We have joint custody (one week at Mom's, one week with us) and he got a real shotgun (complete with real bullets) for Christmas at Mom's, to be used for deer hunting. I support the fact that it's a sport he enjoys, I attended his gun safety 'graduation' to show my support, I have no problem listening to him talk about his hunting adventures. But I absolutely will NOT allow him to bring the gun to our house, garage, shed, etc.. We had quite the fight about it, but in the end I think he understands where I'm coming from.

I thought parenting boys was supposed to be easier? ;-)

Melissa

I steer my kids away from guns, not that I have a problem with folks owning them. They just aren't part of my family.

I'm not anti toy gun or regular gun. I have a couple real guns myself. That said, I also had a friend in 8th grade who was killed by an air gun. One kid jokingly/accidentally (who knows) shot him with a bb. That didn't kill him, but it did send him to the hospital. The blood clot that formed as a result of the shot killed him. He was 12.

Is it an unusual case? Yes. But it really does show that air guns are weapons, not toys, and they have the power to do cause major harm.

I think Steve above said it right. An air gun should not be treated as a toy. I'm sure Adam carries it around unloaded and doesn't shoot things, but cultivating an attitude of respect and understanding of the real danger is extremely important. I'm not judging you here - I don't think you've done anything wrong. However, if I were in your situation I would absolutely stop carrying it to school and not let him carry it around the house like a toy. It is not a toy. Let him carry the toy guns around and make it clear that the "real" guy is a thing to be used only in the proper way with proper supervision. Have someone teach him to use it so he learns to respect it and what it can do, and so he learns how to handle it and take it seriously.

I am a bit freaked out by real guns, whether "weal" or otherwise. Toy guns are a different story. As I write this, my daughter is cutting toy cookies with a huge toy knife. I think it's cute, and she is having fun, and I have no worries whatsoever that she will grow up to be a psychotic cookie-cidal maniac. However, there is no way in the world that I'd let her hold a real (sharp) knife, much less play with it or take it to school. Real knives aren't toys, and aren't appropriate for toddler play.

I think that other posters have expressed my feelings here well, but basically to explain why I have a problem with "weal" guns (or very realistic toy guns) as objects of play, it comes down to a) blurring the lines between reality and play in the child's mind, b) possibly making other people think that your child is brandishing a real gun and responding in a way that is dangerous to your child or themselves, and c) the risk that the child will hurt himself or someone else with the pellets. If he shot someone in the face, would the pellet just bounce off? If not, then that's too dangerous of a toy for a child to be lugging around in public places. If so, and if it doesn't look like a real gun, then I think you're fine, but just be sure to explain to Adam that his "real" gun is shooting "toy" pellets because real pellets are too dangerous.

If you are going to let Adam play with his "weal" gun, I suggest that rather than trying to explain to him about different adult philosophies about gun play (a complex topic probably beyond the ken of a four-year-old), you stick with "guns aren't allowed at school." That's almost certainly true, and it's not unreasonable to ask a child to learn to obey rules, even when he doesn't understand or agree with them.

Well, if it were me. I would post Adam at the front door with his gun to deter burglars and prevent another "unfortunate incident". Then you should have no trouble leaving your doors unlocked and open.

We face the same struggles in our house with our 5 year old boy. Before he was born, I thought, no guns, no swords, no violence. But then he became obsessed with knights and pirates and policemen and what is a knight or a pirate or a policeman without weapons? We bought him play mobile sets...and they had swords! and guns! and daggers! So...we let it go. Plus, we love our water "sprayer" fights in the summer. So now we try to give him context about the toys and always, always tell him that if he sees anything that looks like a real gun/knife/weapon, he is NOT allowed to touch it and he is to tell an adult immediately! And I will tell you that this is a kid who immediately tells me to remove the butter knife from his napkin when he goes out to dinner and will NOT touch any sort of knife or scissors without my permission/assistance, so I truly believe that this has not de-sensitized him to the danger surrounding these items. I also agree that it is the video game and television violence that is much more harmful (have you ever seen the Spiderman or Power Ranger cartoons? Horrible - he is not allowed to watch any of these).

So, I live in Texas, where every truck has a gun rack, and dads store their spare guns under kid's beds. Yeah. So, I'm totally okay with guns.

I feel like if kids grow up knowing what a gun is, and that it can be fatal, they are less likely to have accidents involving firearms. That's my opinion, anyway.

For me, the difference is between toy and real. A toy gun is for play, a real gun is to be respected no matter what type of gun. I am not interested in guns but know plenty who do have them and whose kids have them. Fine with me. I think letting them "play" with them is more dangerous and probably not as good an idea. Just me though.

I'm not sure what our policy on toy guns will be (I have a 2 month old girl, so not really thinking about it right now...) but I just wanted to say that you sum up so perfectly my attitude on parenting/"healthy" life choices with "Some people feel strongly about EVERYTHING. I wish I had the time." I've been trying to figure out how to say that without sounding like I'm some sort of slacker mommy because I don't worry about organic food, or not vaccinating my children, or whatever the new thing is that really good parents do. Thanks for the new phrase. :)

My three little girls (8,5 and 4) all have light sabers. I'm more concerned with them being labeled "dorks" than "violent".

I feel about guns much as I feel about alcohol - if you teach your children responsible usage, you're in a far better place than to make it taboo. My parents were never against guns, but also never for it. In some ways, I wish they had given me the opportunity to learn how to use a gun. Obviously I hope never to need to, but it would have been nice to learn the mechanics. Recently, I've been looking into taking a course. Bottom line: when we make things terribly taboo for children (I'm talking within reason here, people), we only push them into rebellion and a desire to use and likely misuse. And on that note, I think it was entirely appropriate of you to not allow Adam to bring the gun to school, as a human's rights should really only extend as far as the next person's, and someone might truly find it offensive. Who knows; perhaps they had a terrible thing happen with a gun and find themselves unable to deal with it at that time, etc. etc. However, certainly in your home it is your business, and considering you're not allowing him to point it at people, I'd say you're pretty safe.

Andrea

I would suggest getting a toy gun safe to go with the toy gun. Like, maybe a toolbox that you can put a padlock on?

Adam lives in a country where guns and gun-related violence are a real threat. Play is a very important learning activity for children and playing with toy guns - especially in an area where real guns are something that the child is likely to see - is a good way for the child the naturally learn about guns. In that context, I think Adam's having a very realistic toy gun is a good opportunity for you to teach about being a responsible gun owner. Instead of teaching him about other mothers' disapproval (which is an abstract concept that he probably finds difficult to understand), you could teach him about how children who play with real guns can get very badly hurt and about how responsible gun owners never leave their guns out where smaller kids can get them. The fact that he wants to take the gun to school and show everyone maybe illustrates that he doesn't quite understand about that scary fact just yet.

Since he now has a really 'weal' toy gun, it's an excellent opportunity for you to play gun safety with him by getting him to lock it away when he's not using it (maybe you or Rose could be the key holders, in my experience kids love locks!). And you could teach him about how when grown ups have guns, they only bring them out for specific purposes - ie security or hunting. Then you could play some specific gun-related games, like shooting targets or soldiers or whatever, but making sure that the gun only comes out for those games and goes back to its safe spot later.

I do think that the points some of the other commenters raised about how a real looking toy gun can actually attract danger is important though and beg you to consider it. Maybe you could 'lose' the wonderful super realistic gun and take Adam to buy an actual toy gun that doesn't look so frightening. Please?

Yeah, I'd be concerned if it looks "real"- here in the US, kids have been shot b/c police can't tell the difference from a distance. And if you are a perceived threat, they deal with it accordingly. Also, because it's a real gun, it's not really a toy- I agree with those who think it can be dangerous for him to think of it as such.

I live in Texas, USA, and wow, people here love their guns. There are pictures in the paper of five-year-olds (boys and girls) holding up the dead heads of the first bucks they killed. Seriously.

I don't like guns, don't like hunting. My boys don't have toy guns. They do have water pistols, but they don't look like real guns. Even Nerf guns that shoot soft foam bullets are not OK in my book. When my boys are older, I plan to give them the big talk about gun safety. Until then, no guns in our house, toy or otherwise.

I that were here (US) he would have been suspended. It just happened with a 2" toy gun this week and a 4th graders. Stupid, considering it was a GI Joe toy gun.

Forgot to add: I don't think it's wise for a child to play with a real gun like it's a toy, though. And, 5 is really young. My son just got his 1st bb gun for Christmas at 8 and his dad snuck that in on me. I think 12 is more age appropriate.


two weeks ago i adopted a beautiful three year old cat.....she's beautiful until you look at her left side......which is missing an eye......shot out by a pellet gun. some little boy, thinking he was "playing" mained and terrified this cat.

sorry, guys, there is nothing "fun" about guns.

and, no, I did allow my kids to have guns.

Boys love guns and they if can't have a toy gun or a semi-real gun they will just use a potato or whatever else is at hand and pretend it is a gun. So that's that.

As for Adam's 'weal' gun - when they are sold they have a bright orange stripe around the barrel so that it is obvious they are not 'weal'. That stripe usually wears off quite quickly. You would do well to paint one back on. Those things look so real that when my son was out playing with them (in his late teens) I asked him to please call the police first and just let them know that bunch of kids were going to play with them in the park. I was afraid he would be shot on sight if he didn't. The cops in the USA are very touchy about guns. The tend to shoot first, and check second.

We don't do guns for kids, period. Any guns, NERF, squirt, etc. Because the purpose of a gun is to kill. That's what they're for; kill the bad guy, kill the dear ( to feed your family)... but they are for killing. And killing is not something to play at, it is a serious event. Not to be made light of. I am NOT anti-gun, I do know and support their intended purposes and very much enjoy the wild game I've been munching on over the years. So when my kids are old enough to take a gun safety course, old enough to truly understand the concept of death and killing, then they may have a gun, if they desire one and have a real purpose for it. Guns aren't toys. Even Nerf guns... you win by hitting your opponent. You are pretending to kill someone. Which makes killing a game... and it's not. It's deadly serious. ( har har) so we just don't go there at all here. Not that my son doesn't want to play with them, but there you go. He can't.

No five-year-old should have a pellet gun. Hell, no thirteen-year-old should have a pellet gun. They are dangerous, in large part because kids just assume they're safe. An old school friend of mine went blind in his left eye at age eleven because of a self-inflicted pellet gun accident (emphasis on the word accident--he wasn't doing anything particularly foolish with it at the time). They're just not safe.

I don't think kids see what adults see in guns. Adults see gangsters or evil do-ers and feel fear and sadness. Kids don't know the grown up consequences of guns and see another prop in their imaginary play that makes loud sounds and feel nifty and cool.

When I was a kid my brother took an old broken shot gun of my Dad's out of the back of the closet and ran around with it outside. A neighbour called the cops and my parents got in big trouble! Note to self.

No judgment, but......don't exactly know why, but the fact that it is a 'real' gun and not an obvious toy I do find a bit disturbing.

Here's my concern.

If Adam is having a playdate at someone else's house and they stumble across a gun found in a bedside drawer, would he leave it alone or would he think that it was just like his and would be fun to play with? You have no control over whether that gun is loaded or not.

He's way too young to be playing with an air gun. Even young teens can hurt others and be hurt with it. You can kill small animals with it (my ex-husband used to shoot mice around the house). Sure, you know it's got no pellets in it, but others don't, how could they?

I'd sure be wanting to avoid your kid if he was lugging that thing around. Why worry the others who don't know if it's got pellets, or that it's a less deadly but still potentially injurious weapon? If he must play with it, and I'd say he's too young for anything not clearly a toy (and this one isn't), leave it at home.

Five is way too young and I agree with the other posters who say it should be locked in a gun safe and not carried around. He sounds too fascinated with it, what's to keep him from trying out a weal gun? He needs to understand that it is not a toy. Would you let a five-year-old drive a weal car? IMO, it's along the same lines--too much responsibility and not enough sense in a child that age.

My brother had pellet guns up until the day he shot into the yard, it hit a piece of pottery, ricocheted, and hit the sliding glass door. It shattered and the glass rained down into a billion pieces. It was a total accident and he was maybe 10. But that could have been me, the baby next door, the dog, or himself. So no guns for our boy:)

i cam back to read further comments - and in retropect have to say that i hadn't thought about what adam might do if he is at someone's house and comes across a real gun. i am from NZ and we don't have that many guns around, so it was never an issue for me or my older kids. but, in the last few years, here in aussie and in NZ,quite a few kids have been killed with real guns shot by siblings and friends, mainly due to lack of proper controls. including BB guns. often it is an older brother that shoots one of the smaller kids, such tragic unnecessary accidents. often, the kids have not known the gun was A. real, and/or B. loaded - one pull of the trigger and that is a life destroyed and a family shattered, left asking why they let it happen.

he is a boy, impulsive, and risk taking (in some ways) by nature, and you live in a country where is it super common to have guns - and carry them in the car or have them close by in the house. how are you going to ensure that he is safe around them? if he got held up by a bad guy - would he know it was a real gun and act safely? if he found a gun at a friends house when an adult was not present - same deal - would he know to be safe? i doubt it very much. he is a little boy, and he needs his parents to keep him safe, cos he isn't capable to doing it for himself. again, that sort of stuff is so far beyond my experience i can only speculate - but know from SA friends that you guys have shitloads of guns and gun related violence.

if he is going to have a gun - treat it like what it is - a potentially lethal weapon - not a toy, or a joke, but something to respect. and just like when the kids are swimming, don't let him have it when there is no adult to supervise. also, put the ammo away where he CANNOT REACH IT.

thanks for posting this, because i had never even thought this question through before, because of being so far away from guns and the like. it got me cogitating, i can tell you.

I think the point has probably been made already, but at my son's 4th year checkup my pediatrician talked to me about gun safety. I live in a suburb in the pacific northwest of the US, probably one of the areas where comparatively few guns are around. However, even here they he stressed the importance of gun safety and to teach my son about them and - more importantly - talk to other parents about the issue. Make sure that their stuff is safely locked if they have some. My son can play with toy guns that are obviously toy guns (i.e. made of cheap plastic, bright orange/yellow, squirts water etc). I don't buy them - heck they are spoiled enough - I am almost glad to have an excuse to not buy anything:) I don't think there is any harm done in your case. But I would buy a "gun safe" for it, keep it locked in there when you have visitors (and maybe even when you are not in the room with him. He might even like the idea that he has such an "important weal gun") and take the opportunity to teach Adam and Kate about "gun safety".

You did not write that anyone ducked for cover or similar things when he showed the gun to his friends:) But if they went to my pediatrician they may call you to talk about gun safety...

I've got to say I really don't think air guns/air rifles are toys.

My story is about my high school aged boyfriend who was out in the backyard shooting one at targets. I was inside making doughnuts (deep fried) with his mom. For some reason, my boyfriend came back into the house and aimed and shot his empty air rifle -- from a pretty significant distance away -- into the deep oil bath we were using for frying. The air coming out of the gun was very strong, and it splashed the oil up all over my hands and arms - not fun.

If Adam wants a toy gun, and you don't have a problem with it, get him a toy gun -- but don't let him play with an air rifle at all. It's not in any way, shape, or form a toy.

A light saber, a water pistol, a pirate sword - all fine.I'm sorry, but I think he's too young for a pellet gun.

Living in SA, I would be soooo afraid to drive around with a pellet gun that looks real. The cops here have been given a shoot to kill order. What happenes if you come into a road block and Adam has the gun in the car and "pretends" to point at the cop? The cop will not hesitate to open fire. I would not take the gun out of the house. The SA police for is too unpredictable. If you think this won't happen, it already has. A 6 year old boy was the victim of a trigger happy cop, because he "thought" the boy was a "man" with gun - very sad!

I grew up on a farm in Northern KZN, and now live in the outlying suburbs of Durban. It was a hunting farm and I grew up around guns. And I probably am more respectful and have more fear for them then friends and family who have never lived with a gun in the house.

My father always keeps a handgun on him in the evening. It sits on the table when we have dinner, on the coffee table when we watch TV and on his side table when he is asleep. When we were too young to understand not to touch guns it was kept hidden in his drawer at night. But from a young age (3-ish) I remember knowing you didn't touch guns unless an adult helped you. My brother had toy guns and we knew the difference between the toy and the real thing. We pretened to shoot eachother with the toys and played cops and robbers. It's what kids do. And they are able to distinguish the difference if you teach them to.

We have 3 shot guns, a semi-automatic and two hand guns. They are all kept in a large walk in safe. The safe has a combination lock and the door is about a foot of thick metal. When I borrowed my uncles pellet gun when I was little my dad made me keep it in the safe when we were not using it. Why? Because it is a firearm, which is capable of propelling a piece of metal that could kill or injure someone. It didn't matter if it was a pellet gun. He treated it with as much respect as a shot gun. One of the cardinal rules of fire arm safety is that you treat every single weapon you handle as though it was loaded. The question is would you let Adam sleep with a loaded pellet gun? Or take one in the car to school? Or carry it around the house. Of course not. The last thing that is worrying is that he is not learning to distinguish between a "weal gun" and a "real gun". To him you can play with a "weal gun", sleep with it and take it on the car trip to school. Many more people then you would think have guns in their homes for self defence. If he ever encounters a "real gun" he might apply what he has been taught to that situation. With terrible results.

I get so work up about this because I have seen what a real gun does. I have hunted, and done target practice. I have had to walk through my house carrying a real hand gun (at age 20) checking what set the alarm off. The real thing is never a toy. Wait till he is older and then get someone to teach him how to use, respect and appreciate a gun.

I think something that actually shoots anything that could hurt or bring unhappiness to the receiver is out of line. Water pistols are great at a party setup where everyone has one, but otherwise it is just annoying, only the shooter has fun. As to whether it is politically correct: I really agree that if they are destined to become psychopathic mass murderers owning a toy gun won't make a difference, in fact I honestly doubt that the average psychopathic mass murderer ever glanced at a toy gun if he could use something else in the kitchen that could cause actual harm. I think this weal gun is bad news, so sorry to say that, but I would get rid of it in my own house and replace it with another thing that can also provide entertainment (anything... there are SO MANY toys available...). Purely because I think it will alienate some of his friends - moms are a really big influence at this point and the slightest hint of "I don't want you playing with That Boy" can set him up quite badly at a tender age. Make him a promise that one day when he is xyz age he can go for genuine target shooting lessons in a controlled environment. But I think an understanding of the misery a toy gun can cause other people and animals (even if he NEVER aims it at them) is the start of why people actually don't like them, even if he doesn't use it on them. That is enough explanation. I remember my older sister had a bow & arrow set and at some point she shot the dog - didn't hurt it, but the bow and arrow set was broken in two and she got a spanking with it... So I think it is quite embedded in my brain that you don't even go there, don't even start it. However, I also remember the greatest birthday party was one where we all had water pistols and had a massive war in our backyard. That was different. Hope that makes sense.

Sorry, just one more comment, as if I haven't said enough: when my sister and I were about Adam/Kate's age we would go to my grandfather's farm and hunt little birds with a "windbuks". The thought of that now totally freaks me out, can't think of anything more cruel, but at the time it was awesome fun. But it was real: real gun, real bullets. And somehow that makes you respect it. I think, and treading on really "not so sure" ground here, if Markus ever felt inclined to take them out for something like that in lieu of having gun-like stuff at home, perhaps it may be a way out...not sure if the other mommies will freak out at that also but they really don't need to know.

This is what makes parenting so difficult. We have preconceived ideas about these things but in reality they are not practical ideas. I personally wouldn't buy my son a toy gun but I am sure he will make his own and I am not going to stop him.

Our kids are going to play with guns, if not at home then at afriend's home.


In the past I never stopped them from playing with toy guns but didn't encourage it either. Today they are 8 and 12 and show no interest in toy guns what so ever. In the summer they play with water pistols.

Each boy used to have a playstation - I threw them away 3 years ago. I will never buy my kids a playstation again - will get them a weal gun any day before I get a playstation.

i am one of those HELL NO toy guns moms. mine is six, and a girl, but we live in arizona, where there is a very vibrant gun-owning culture, and while i have no problem with her learning how to fire/care for a gun, say, at a shooting range or other controlled environment when she is old enough to have respect and coordination, the LAST thing i think she needs is any sort of "comfort" with the idea of handling a firearm. guns, when loaded with bullets or not, can kill, and, quite frankly, i think she needs to be scared shitless of them at this point. yanno, we tell our kids, if they see matches, don't touch them, run away, tell a parent, blah blah blah. i think it would send a mixed message when she is young to then give her a toy that then *looked* like and was meant to simulate the effect of matches.

i don't let her go to anyone's house if their firearms aren't kept in a safe, either. and, right now, that would include your house.

My 10 yr old has lots of toy guns, mostly nerf etc that he and his friends play with a lot outside. He also has laser tag. He would love a pellet gun, but I think I will have my husband do a gun safety class or something with him where they learn how to shoot real guns. He also wants to try hunting.

Years ago I was working as a Teachers Aide at an elementary school. One of my duties was to watch the kids at recess and make sure everybody was doing the right thing and not getting in to trouble. One day I noticed a group of boys out in the play field hovering over backpack one of the boys had brought. As I walked over to check it out the boys started to look nervous - why? Because there was a GUN in that backpack - one boy had just wanted to 'show' it to his friends and brought it to school. He was suspended from school for an entire week and the Sheriff had to come out and assess the situation. That boy did not make a good choice when he brought a gun to school - even if it was unloaded and just to 'share'. He was too young and could not make the distinction between appropriate use of a gun and inappropriate use.

grew up in Texas. all of my uncles and grandfathers and y own dad hunted and some still do.
for my 10th christmas my brother (11) and i each got a BB gun. he shot at the ground near me and a bb ricocheted and hit me in the stomach, lucky for me it was a very cold day and i was bundled up so all i got was a painful bruise. i used my bb gun for target practice, I LOVED it. He used his for target practice and occasionally shot birds. I knew Two kids in my upper middle class suburb who died from gunshot wounds in their teen years--one killed himself when he was down about a broken heart. the other accidentally got shot by a friend who thought his parent's gun was unloaded.

I agree with the posters who say that you should not allow him to treat this real gun as anything but a real gun. in SA i bet many families have guns in their homes as do many americans, and at least here, a gun in the home is more likely to kill a family member accidentally than save you from an intruder. Maybe you have better odds in SA, but i wouldn't count on it. Forget about the other moms being mad. Just help keep Adam safe while he is too young to be truly understand the danger of playing with real guns.


Toy guns are one thing, but a real gun for a little kid that he takes in the car every day is another. Since you are asking for opinions I would have to say that the gun should go high on a shelf till he is old enough to understand the danger. There are enough toys out there that kids dont need toy guns. That is what fingers are for. If my child wanted to have a play date with a kid with a REAL gun, regardless if it was loaded I would have to say no. The whole thing is INVITING TROUBLE! Good luck!

US mom here, where people are (IMHO) over-focused on these things. Today, they are guns. Before, bows and arrows. Before that, clubs I suspect. My damned puppy pretends to bit and subdue other dogs. I don't think children want to kill (or understand killing) with guns any more than they understand what it means to be a ballerina or a brain surgeon or an astronaut. Cowboys and Indians? Means little more to me than Team A vs. Team B.

People kill other people - weapons are merely the means.

No, for my boys I think they are not yet ready to grasp what guns can do (11 and 9). But, again, I live on the other side of earth.

That gun is a weapon, plain and simple. You were right to feel embarrassed and I think the other mothers are right to protect their children from potential injury from the weapon you allow your son to carry.

He may only be 5 and it seems harmless. But with such a lax view how long is it until he comes across a real gun, that may have real bullets in it?

Pretend play is essential in childhood, and whether or not children are given toy guns to play with, they will act out shooting at each other, but any object that can fire missiles or bullets that can injure another person is a weapon.

You can't protect them from everything no, but you can educate them about realities and dangers, and allowing your son to treat something that can in fact be a weapon and injure someone is leaving him open to a tragic accident.

As Suzanne said, I will not let my child visit a house where there are unsecured weapons, and right now your house would qualify.

Ultimately though, it is your decision, but some quick research and a simple google image search for 'pellet gun injury' should make it perfectly clear why you have received so many negative comments. I have linked the page I quoted. Adam falls into the group with the highest number of injuries.

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/114/5/1357

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://webapp.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates.html and www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/nonfatal/datasources.htm) and the CPSC,12 in 2000 the overall nonfatal age-adjusted rate of injury from BB or pellet guns was 7.71 per 100000 population. In 2000, there were an estimated 21840 (coefficient of variation: 0.0821) nonpowder gun–related injuries treated in emergency departments (D. Tinsworth, MS, CPSC, written communication, November 26, 2001). Of these, 2% occurred in children 0 to 4 years of age; 49% occurred in children 5 to 14 years of age; 33% occurred in those 15 to 24 years of age; and the balance occurred in adults 25 years and older.

Shoo, this is a hard one. My earthmother friend went so far as to ban finger "gun" pointing. One evening we went into the bathroom to fish the kids out of the bath and her 6 year old was "shooting" his bath mates with his willy! Hip movements and all! No hands, just deliberate thrusts and sound effects!!! LOL!
I don't think we can prevent the knowledge or awareness, but we also have to be real, guns don't kill, people do, Good people and BAD people, every single licensed gun owner is a prospective killer. Not what the gun control crowd or the freedom of association people want to hear but there you have it.
I am married to a retired policeman, guns were part of our lives and for 12 years I lived in fear that the gun safe would magically (or mysteriously) open by itself and one of our two children would be curious. I literally lay awake worrying, I became compulsive about checking it. But I never rested easy. We have finally given up our firearms, I sleep better but I still can't stop the facination my kids have with weapons. Keep your babies safe.

I love that you typed this! My kids do not have guns, but do have swords and light sabers. I have found that even those without guns can somehow turn their fingers into fake guns, etc.
Anyway, I am laughing because I was recently at a neighbor's house and her 5 year old came to the door with one of those candy cigarettes in his mouth and she whipped it out of his mouth and followed up later that he was punished for having it and that someone else bought it for him.
It just cracked me up - yes - I am with you, I worry about what others think. Then again, that mom that saw him was also probably thinking, "Look at that mom on the phone...". You will never (unfortunately) make everyone happy.

I live in Texas and my husband is a member of the US military. We personally own guns.

The idea of a five year old walking around outside his school with a pellet gun is idiotic. Even here in Texas other parents would think you were a nut. Guns belong safely stored at home. You could at least start with that.

If you're going to let your children have access to guns, "weal" or otherwise, then you have a responsiblity to teach them how to handle them safely. That your concern with this incident is the look that the mother of a girl gave you is ridiculous. By the way, here in Texas girls have "weal" guns too.


I have to agree with a PP that was appalled that you let Adam out of the house with a pellet gun, bullets or no. (No offense! Love your blog! Long time reader!) Is that even legal there? Here in the states that is a huge huge no-no. If you transport a gun you have to have it in a case in an area of the vehicle not accessible to the occupants. Unless you have a concealed carry permit in which case it has to be concealed.

As for my gun stance . . . in high school one of my best friends was shot and killed by another friend playing with his dad's handgun. He found it on the top shelf of the closet. His parents never impressed upon him that guns are dangerous and not toys. Granted, he was a teenager and should have known better. He did check for a mag, and upon not finding one, thought it was safe. When he pointed it at our friend (again, should have known better) and pulled the trigger, the gun fired - there was a bullet in the chamber.

For years after that I was very anti-gun. Swore my son would never have access to real guns, though I did let him have toy ones. One day I realized I didn't want my son to be that kid - the one who wasn't taught any better than to pick up a gun and play with it. I want him to hopefully be that kid who has sense enough to say, hey, that's not a toy, put it away. I want him to be smart enough to know how and why they work and when and how they are to be used.

Now I have several of my own handguns. Mostly, I just enjoy shooting them. But I'm a single mother of three and I admit, I feel a little safer knowing I have them available. They are loaded but always - ALWAYS - locked in a safe that my children can't access right next to my bed. I recently took the concealed carry class and when I do get the permit, and I do start carrying, they will still not be accessible to my children. I have taught al of them the do's and don'ts of guns - don't touch them when an adult isn't around, tell an adult if you find one, etc. I take my oldest (12 year old son) shooting and he knows not to point or put your finger on the trigger until ready to shoot, etc.

My point is - education is key. Kids are always drawn to the unknown or the forbidden. And when it comes to guns, ignorance is dangerous.

I detested the idea of toy guns with my son (who turns 17 tomorrow!) and forbid them.

Then he got older and started to play nasty video games involving guns, as did my daughters on occasion.. You know, after expressing my distaste and hate for guns in the real world I think we are ok. My kids are all very kind and wonderful souls. Guns may be a part of their fictional game world but pretty much unimaginable in their real lives.

Especially as we live in Canada where guns are not the norm.

We don't do toy guns in our house because I don't ever want my kids in a situation where they come across a real gun and think it's ok to play with it. They have just grown up knowing that NO gun is a toy. We do allow toy swords, but quite frankly the odds of them ever coming across a real sword are so far less than those of coming across a real gun (at, say, a friend's house - or their grandparents' house, for that matter, since Grandpa is a hunter) that I am not concerned with them using a real sword on someone, even by accident. And even with toy swords they are not ever allowed to use them around others, no sword fighting AT ALL. May take the fun out of it, but they seem to have survived.

I grew up with toy guns, and with a dad who was a hunter, and I just don't personally see the fun of a gun. Why should it be "fun" to pretend to (or REALLY) kill something? Why would I foster in my children the mindset that it's "fun" to kill something??? And the same goes for violent video games in my house, btw. Costumes, props, imagination games - yes. Killing things or people - no. And my kids just accept this as the way it is.

I would certainly never let my 5 year old have a toy gun, much less a real one! And I sure as hell wouldn't have taken it in the car somewhere, much less to school!

I think the allure of a forbidden gun, coupled with ignorance about gun safety is a very dangerous combination. Friends' dads will always have a gun stuck in some closet or something like that. What about that curiousity for a child who is forbidden guns at home?
I chose another route (well, I had to, I am a gun person) and I taught my children gun safety. Even with toy guns, we don't point them at anybody. (The NERF ones are hard to regulate on this, though.) I once broke a brand new toy gun to pieces right in front of my little guy which broke his heart. I had just finished telling him not to point it at anyone and he pointed it at his brother. To show them what guns do, I have taken them to the range and they are not anxious to have an explosion like that near them. They ahve seen the game killed and the guns that did it. That's my safety schpiel.

I suspect you are trying to whip up a frenzy of comments on your blog by readers who are anti-guns. The fact is your attitude is inappropriate and you know it. Your kid isn't cute, he's carrying a weapon. Do the research on injuries caused by these types of guns, particularly to children. Its all fun until someone loses an eye.

hey T, just thought to draw your attention to the death of a 12 year old boy here in queensland, australia earlier this week. a beautiful boy called elliot, and an only child. hopes and dreams lost in one swift blow. he was stabbed to death in a school bathroom by a boy only a year older. for aussie, it is a SHOCKING thing - something we are totally unused to. made me think of your post, and how deeply we need to consider things we might otherwise view as harmless.

not so long ago, those two boys might have been playing cops and robbers with toy guns, then onto video and wii type games - now one is dead, and the other may as well be because his life will never be the same again.

the families and classmates of both boys are reeling, as are the staff at the school, and the general public.

do we need toys that replicate things that destroy people's lives and wreck families and communities and nations?

food for thought, very deep committed thought.

Goodness Tertia, you like the hot button issues.

I grew up in South Africa and we played with toy guns. Our family had a farm and so we saw guns on the farm and my dad went shooting things that flew away BUT we never had guns to play with that could shoot a projectile.

Now I've lived in Seattle for 9 years (pregnancy onwards).

Just to clarify US attitudes. A young child can and will be suspended for coming to school with a toy gun. A child can be suspended for bringing a toy SWORD to school. There is no tolerance of weapons, pretend or otherwise.

The very idea of an air rifle being near a school is absurd to me.

I can have that whole conversation about "playing with toy guns" at home. We have friends for and against. I have tons of plastic guns, rifles, star wars blasters, lego blasters, wooden swords, silver ray guns, cap gun muskets for pirates for my 8 year old and my 3 year old LOOOOOVES them. Still, we draw lines clearly about making sure other kids feel safe and happy with them and don't point them at people in the car (my kids think that is a great idea).

Real guns are another thing.

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