Kids and toy guns/"pretending" to shoot someone

This is a discussion on Kids and toy guns/"pretending" to shoot someone within the Basic Gun Handling & Safety forums, part of the General Firearm Discussion category; I was just looking at this page about kids and gun safety: Gun Safety for Kids and Youth: Your Child: University of Michigan Health System ...

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Thread: Kids and toy guns/"pretending" to shoot someone

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    Member Array Ishmael's Avatar
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    Kids and toy guns/"pretending" to shoot someone

    I was just looking at this page about kids and gun safety: Gun Safety for Kids and Youth: Your Child: University of Michigan Health System

    Given that the numbers are low relative to population, etc., it still seems to be the case that having guns around increases the chances of accidents and suicidal people using them as a means to this/their end. So, of course, we all need to be very careful where children are concerned.

    I was looking at some of the cited studies:

    Seeing Is Believing: What Do Boys Do When They Find a Real Gun?
    Teaching firearm safety to children: fai... [J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2002] - PubMed - NCBI
    A firearm safety program for children: t... [J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1996] - PubMed - NCBI

    One of the thought-provoking findings was that playing with toy guns increases the likelihood of kids treating real guns like toys. (We can have another discussion about how the researchers apparently let their test-subject kids "find" real guns; can't quite wrap my head around who would sign off on that one.) But anyway, this makes some sense to me. I grew up with hippyish parents who say they at first intended never to buy me toy guns, then, when I would just pretend with a stick or make one out of lego, they gave in. In late elementary school and middle school, I had and played with extremely realistic toy guns--replicas really.

    So, back before I thought much about guns (kind of late to the gun world), I always figured I would let my kids play with toy guns.

    Now, I'm not so sure. I definitely wouldn't get my kids anything that looks as realistic as the toys I had (a cop would no choice but to assume those were real), and I would definitely talk to my kids about why. But I've also honestly started to feel kind of weird about my kids pretending to shoot people at all, even with very unrealistic looking toys. It just skeezes me out.

    I was curious how other parents handle this. I know that, whether I "allow" it in my presence or not, they are going to do it when they are off with their friends. But my instinct is that by being intolerant of it in my presence, and by reacting strongly even if a toy is pointed at me, maybe I can plant a seed of awareness that there are important boundaries to be followed where all guns are concerned? Any thoughts?

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    Senior Member Array GentlemanJim's Avatar
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    Just put dresses on them and raise them as girls.

    Jim

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    VIP Member Array xXxplosive's Avatar
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    Raised my boys with guns in the house and respect for them................no issues.
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    Studies like these generally arrive at whatever findings the researcher wants. If you want your kids to know the differences between real guns and toy guns, teach them yourself and keep them as far away from researchers and studies as you are able. I had lots of toy guns when I was young, and was introduced to shooting real ones when I was about five years old. I received my first rifle (a .22 Ithica single-shot) when I was seven. I got my first .410 rabbit gun later that same year. Since I already knew how to shoot them and handle them safely, there was no big deal. If your kid can't tell the difference between a real gun and a toy, and how they operate and are to be safely handled, shame on you.

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    Member Array Ishmael's Avatar
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    @GentlemanJim, well, one of them is a girl, and I'm not going to treat her any differently from the boy where guns are concerned. Hope that's okay with you.

    @Mike1956, I agree with the statement "If your kid can't tell the difference between a real gun and a toy, and how they operate and are to be safely handled, shame on you." And I agree with the idea of being skeptical about such studies being "the gospel." It just got me thinking, is all. I'd be surprised if anyone who is familiar with guns doesn't have at least an odd feeling seeing a kid point a toy gun at someone, though. I'm not saying it's a feeling that HAS to result in special rules or anything, just wondering if anyone else has any particular rules for their kids where toy guns are concerned.

    @xXxplosive: I take it your kids are grown? Glad to hear you did such a good job with them. What is their relationship to guns now?

    Of course, none of this teaching would do anything about the suicide issue, which is a relatively dangerous one for teenagers (poor impulse control, poor sense of proportion/perspective). A locked safe remains key.

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    VIP Member Array Hiram25's Avatar
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    When I was little, I shot anything that moved with my toy gun. I grew up ok. I raised all of my children around guns, duty weapon hung from my bed post, loaded, never had an incident. Taught my own and half the neighborhood kids how to shoot and respect a weapon. All, not some, but all of those kids have turned out just fine! A child gets into trouble when they run across a gun and have had absolutely no training regarding them whatsoever.
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    Senior Member Array adric22's Avatar
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    I've learned that kids cannot much tell the difference between replica guns (such as BB and airsoft guns) and real guns. Now they can certainly tell the difference between cheap palstic or wooden guns than the real thing. Even though it is obvious to us because we are so familiar with them. Sort of like my wife will ask me if I like the shirt she is wearing today better than the one she wore yesterday.. My response would be, "I thought that WAS the shirt you wore yesterday." That is because I don't pay much attention to fashion or anything like that. So until a child has used a gun enough to know how to really tell them apart, it is tough to say. Some of the replica BB guns I have would require pulling the slide back in and looking at the chamber to really know which it was.
    "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws." -Plato

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    Distinguished Member Array MinistrMalic's Avatar
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    Okay, so first off teach all your kids gun safety from their earliest days. My 6 year old can tell you all of Eddie Eagle's rules, and also helps me clean guns frequently. My older kids are all proficient in unloading guns and shooting.

    For toy guns, we tell the kids that we treat them like real ones in some sense. Now, I let my kids play with nerf and with airsoft and all that. But the rules are clear: the guns are not to be pointed at those not playing the game, and all safety rules for those playing are in play. So, never point a nerf gun at someone you're not ready to shoot. Keep your finger off the trigger...be aware of your target and what lies beyond. That kind of thing.

    That, in my opinion, allows them to play and to experience the fun of nerf wars while still enforcing that firearms are no joke. And when they pick up a gun, their attitude with it is consistent.
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    Our two boys grew up handling real guns from a young age, all while playing with toy guns. They knew the difference. I was raised the same way and I always knew the difference. It's up to the parents to be responsible to "train up a child in the way he should go."
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    VIP Member Array mlr1m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ishmael View Post
    :SNIP:
    One of the thought-provoking findings was that playing with toy guns increases the likelihood of kids treating real guns like toys. (We can have another discussion about how the researchers apparently let their test-subject kids "find" real guns; can't quite wrap my head around who would sign off on that one.) But anyway, this makes some sense to me. I grew up with hippyish parents who say they at first intended never to buy me toy guns, then, when I would just pretend with a stick or make one out of lego, they gave in. In late elementary school and middle school, I had and played with extremely realistic toy guns--replicas really.

    :SNIP:

    I was curious how other parents handle this. I know that, whether I "allow" it in my presence or not, they are going to do it when they are off with their friends. But my instinct is that by being intolerant of it in my presence, and by reacting strongly even if a toy is pointed at me, maybe I can plant a seed of awareness that there are important boundaries to be followed where all guns are concerned? Any thoughts?
    When I was growing up most of us were the sons and daughters of men who served in the second World War. Playing War came natural to most of us. We were taught from an early age the difference between make believe and real life. Between toys and real weapons the toys were meant to imitate.
    I remember well the times a parent asking us kids if we knew that something we were watching was just make believe. That it was not real.

    The problem is not with the children not knowing the difference. They problem is with the parents who do not take the time to point out the difference to their children and their friends.

    I'm sure that even the adults back in the days of the Neanderthals took the time to point out which berries were safe to eat and which were only suitable from playing marbles with.

    Michael
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    When I was younger back in the early 60's I killed a lot of my friends several times a day,and in return they kilt me back,I knew my gun was a toy,I knew my dads guns weren't and that they could kill you permanently.I never touched my dads guns unless he took me out shooting which was just about everytime I asked.
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    I grew up playing with toy guns. I also grew up shooting real ones. I have, so far anyway, raised my children pretty much the same way I was raised. They know what a 'toy' is and what 'real' is. My boys are still too young to start shooting anything 'real' yet, but in the next year or so, I plan to start introducing my older son to BB gun marksmanship and move on from there (assuming it interests him). I'll start over with the next one in a few more years when he is old enough. All my kid's guns are obviously toys. I had several very real looking toy guns when I was a child but times have changed and in that regard, what worked for me isn't acceptable anymore. Even if my kids know it's a toy, now everyone else needs to know it's a toy too.

    I personally think that guns, gun safety, gun ownership and responsibility all start with an intelligent, level headed mindset on the parent's part. If you don't have the proper mindset with regards to firearms, then neither will your children. If you do, then they will (most likely) as well. Each child is going to be different, so it's up to the adult to 'know' when any child is ready for that sort of responsibility. Some may never be, and that's your job to deal with too.

    Just to stay on the soapbox for a fraction longer, I think that a good majority of the 'problems' of today are caused by disinterested parents and kids who have become so desensitized to violence with the TV and video games. I don't think you need to raise your kids in a vacuum, but allowing them to see too much violence, or take part in too much game violence, does cause a disconnect in young minds and ultimately alters their perception of right and wrong. I'm not saying that every child is going to be affected negatively, but overall I think that a lot of issues that most of us never experienced growing up can be attributed to the influences that we never had the same kind of exposure to.
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    Senior Member Array NH_Esau's Avatar
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    I grew up with toy guns - I had cap guns, plastic guns, even a subscale plastic M-16 that was pretty realistic. My siblings and I shot each other and we went through elaborate death throes before miraculous revivals. We acted out shootings, kidnappings, and interrogations. When we got older, we got BB guns, and I'll admit that I got into some trouble shooting things I wasn't allowed to... once. Dad fixed that right.

    Eventually, I got to shoot Dad's guns, and then got guns of my own. I never misunderstood which were real and which weren't.

    However, before I had kids, I resolved that we'd never let our kids have toy guns. I wasn't even sure I'd allow a BB gun. My reasoning was that we'd make a distinction early between toys and firearms as well as play and reality. My kids watched Eddie Eagle regularly and we talked about safety. I took my kids out shooting a youth .22 starting around 5. My master plan worked. My kids never pretended to shoot other people, except with brightly-colored squirt guns. All was well. I was super-Dad.

    And then I had a son. I tried to do the same, and it plain didn't work. Everything became a gun - legos, sticks, fingers.

    I gave up and let him be a boy. We let him play with Nerf guns and I bought a toy Daniel Boone rifle for him. Even got a Red Ryder. We go out shooting. He hangs out in the blind with me during hunting season. He's asking me when he'll be old enough to buy his own .410 (he's saving money towards it).

    Without a doubt he understands the difference between toys and firearms. Play vs reality? I think he's got that figured out mostly, but I guess I'm not ready to squish that out of him until he's ready.

    I think the problem isn't half as much what kids grow up around, but who they grow up around. Who ought to be the parents, as much as possible.

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    Kids used to play Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers, and everyone survived without growing up to be dirtbags.
    Now-a-days, kids are expected to play Gay Cowboys and Transvestite Robbers...sheeeeesh, now just WHY is the world screwed up?
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    Honestly, if you need to resort to the studies of a big university to raise you kids then you are in trouble.

    You are the parent. ONLY you and your spouse know what is best for your kids.
    Mark Twain:
    The government is merely a servant -- merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a
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