Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kids and Guns.

I was having a conversation yesterday with a colleague about children and guns.
He has a new baby and is torn between allowing toy guns, or not.
When we were little my mother did her darnedest to keep guns and violent toys out of our hands and in response we picked up sticks and pretended they were guns.

When I was about 8 or 9 my great uncle allowed me to watch as he organised the guns and ammo for rabbit/possum hunting on the farm. I clung to the back of his bike as we all rode out to a good spot while the sun lowered itself into the hot Hawke’s Bay earth.
I waited, twitching with suppressed excitement and nerves, for the rabbits to come out to feed.
I watched as he shot animals and they didn’t get back up again.
I cried as he walked me over to retrieve the “bunny” and ensure that it was a fatal shot and was not in pain.
He explained the different between pets, farm stock, and pests.
We talked about animal control and what rabbits and possums did to New Zealand farms and native bush.
We went home and skinned the rabbits and fed the dogs.
After a night of bad dreams I awoke and sat at the breakfast table, little legs swinging and explained to my amused Aunt that MY Bunny was a good bunny because it didn’t have too many babies and only ate our vegi scraps, so that bunny shouldn’t be shot.

My mother taught me that she didn’t like guns.
That is all.

My uncle taught me that guns are tools.
Guns harm that which you use them on.
He taught me that if you shoot something it is your responsibility. YOU pick it up, make sure you did it properly and dispose or/use the remains.
Guns are to be taken seriously, and are NOT toys.

My uncle taught me more in one week than my mother had taught me in 8 years.

I have no doubt that if he had caught my brother and I pointing even pretend guns at each other’s heads we would have finally met the big leather strop he kept on top of the fireplace to scare us with.

So when I saw this morning’s paper with this article I was delighted.

There will always be guns in this world.
Kids will see them on T.V, on farms, in computer games, and in the sadder cases, in their own world.
Kids will always play at adult activities, cooking, families, building, driving.
Shooting a gun is an adult activity and will be mimicked.
It is a parent’s responsibility to provide good behaviour for children to emulate.
We can turn our backs on violence and pretend it doesn’t exist, or confront it and teach our children better lessons. This idea is a brilliant way of providing the toys, with an appropriate response.

Will the kids who haven’t seen a real gun in action understand why the license is part of this play activity?
I wonder.


  1. Hmm... I felt quite ambivalent about the whole thing when I saw it the newspaper. But I think the position you take is a good way of looking at it.

    Having said that, I've never seen my girls playing with pretend guns. Once when we were at a friend's house, one of the girls, aged about six at the time, caused quite a stir when she pulled a toy gun out of a toy basket (older friends who had a basket of toys for visiting children), held it back to front and upside down, and said, "What's this?" in tones of genuine puzzlement. Come to think of it, they might have played with it after that, possibly because it was so novel, but I can't recall them making and playing with toy guns at home.

    Even so, toy gun play is ubiquitous among youngish children. I think I'm beginning to like the idea of licenses as part of the whole game.

  2. When I saw the headline, I reacted (as one does). But as I read the article I became increasingly impressed.

    Like others, I am not overly fond of gun play. But the approach they have taken is pretty damned amazing. For one thing it sets children up to deal with the real world - or at least how it ought to be - of having to pass tests for certain things, of being licences, and of responsibility.

    I agree, scube. I loved this article.

  3. I see a difference between hunting guns, as the children in the photo are playing at, and handguns. Handguns are for concealing and are for shooting humans. They have no use for hunting. It is handguns I do not wish to see my child playing at.

  4. I can't believe how totally ridiculous the headline of that story was.

  5. I think the negative side of gun play is overstated. I am a former little boy who loved playing with toy guns, who grew into a vegetarian pacifist, who loathes real life guns. I doubt they could have that great of a psychological effect on children. Of course this is just my anecdote. Though there are parallels between this debate and the debate about violent video games making teens violent. It has been found that they don't, already violent teens copy them. So I suspect that I am right.

  6. I agree, education is better than prohibition. Thank you for changing my mind on this topic.

  7. I'm the rare breed of hippie, liberal, musician that actually likes guns. Take the fear out and teach kids about guns and with that respect and responsibility. My parents didn't let us have (toy) guns but I was always fascinated with them. Later as an adult, I took lessons, learned about them and then bought one. i'd never shoot at something alive, but i sure do like to shoot at cans and paper silhouettes. Awesomeness.


  8. Just a brief note- in my classroom, I tell the kids that make guns that they will lose their gun licence if they aim at people or use their guns irresponsibly, or if they are annoying people with them. They also have to clean up after their gun making episodes. It took one gun confiscation and a licence cancelled to get the point across. So teaching them that people with guns have to be careful and considerate, and use them properly was quite cool.


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