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The nerf gun is neat, it really is.  Its got little rubber ammo discs, and its a fun game to play.  Here's the dilemma.  I was in the toy store, buying Christmas presents.  I went to look at the nerf guns.  Some of the nerf guns were assault nerf guns with ammo clips.  

I felt a sudden deep revulsion.  Images of Aurora and Newtown came unbidden. And I couldn't buy the toy.  

But another part of me was thinking "Don't be daft.  A nerf gun is just a toy, and its existence has no correlation to lunatics going on a killing rampage.  Buying won't create the next psychopath, and not buying will not stop him."  I still didn't buy it, though. And I feel like that was irrational.  

After all, I buy them toys that I know have been made in China, probably in sweatshop conditions.  Some of the toys were probably made with child labor.  My son has a batmobile, and a ton super-testosterone action figures.  My daughter has Barbies, with Barbie clothes that belong in the wardrobe of a high class hooker. I don't buy all organic food.  There's a hundred things in my life that are out of synch with my value system, because practicality and convenience tend to win out.  So why am I freaking out about a stupid toy gun?




Do toy guns send a violent message to kids?

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Comment Preferences

  •  When my son was little (7+ / 0-)

    I found myself conflicted about whether his little Lego figures could keep their guns.  I think I voted no.  His Little Lego Hans Solo, however, did get to keep the little light saber.  And the Lego Ninja warriors got to keep their swords.

    If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? When I am only for myself, then what am "I"? And if not now, when?

    by betorah on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 02:24:11 PM PST

  •  Buy it, it's a toy (9+ / 0-)

    Guns were a much more popular toy for us male boomers, maybe because all our dads had been in WWII or we watched lots of westerns on TV. While I was intensively trained in the use of small arms by Uncle Sam, I have never owned a real rifle or pistol. Toy guns are one of many variables in the life of boys.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 02:28:16 PM PST

  •  I never got anything like that (7+ / 0-)

    and I enlisted in the Army. It probably doesn't matter.

  •  I grew up in the fifties. (9+ / 0-)

    Toy guns, armies, cowboys and indians, dividing up kids in shootouts, and infinte more related stuff. Most of the time.

    I knew back then and my entire life to separate fantasy from reality.  I was always gentle - even remove individual insects from the house whenever I can.

    Recently a little kid got suspended from school for biting his cookie in the form of a gun.  He said he was making a mountain.  Whatever.  Just fucking ridiculous.

    Suggestion for Facebook: 50 free "starter friends" automatically as soon as you sign up.

    by dov12348 on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 02:30:49 PM PST

    •  I remember the last time I played war, I remember (4+ / 0-)

      thinking, this is the last time you will play war. I was too old, the other kids were too old. I think it was probably the last time for any of us. One of us ended up doing war for real. But none of us knew what a fire fight was then, and only one of us found out.

      I think all our parents were the 'guns are not toys' crew.

      Now that I am thinking back, I do remember shooting guns with those same kids about 5 or 6 years after that. They had real guns, not toy guns. I know I turned around with my gun at that shoot. That happens. Ask anyone who has gone to the range. Still it handed to me on a silver platter, I am not a gun girl. I never went back to the gravel pit. Didn't interest me.

      Now they have the 2nd (safety net for sloppy) Amendment, and can't be infringed to actually treat their gun like a gun and not a video game controller.

      by 88kathy on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 04:46:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I had all manner of goofy gun toys (7+ / 0-)

    (I definitely had something that shot ping pong balls, but you had to pump it like 15 times to get it to work…) and ended up making a living by prosecuting people who commit crimes with guns.  I wouldn't keep a (real) gun in the house if you paid me.

    I think the WORST thing you can do is make guns into this forbidden fruit—an item so dangerous that even a cheap children's toy that bears a vague resemblance to a gun is banned from the house.  

    •  Yes, there is something in that. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey, LilithGardener

      One of my friends was forbidden to watch any TV except PBS back in the 70's.  She and her siblings thought that "Love Boat" was glamorous and exotic.  I don't know that the restriction had any affect on them, good or bad.  I do know that they spent a lot of time reading, and that there is a lot of interesting information to be mined in a Judith Krantz romance.  Very advanced readers, those kids were, ahem.

      "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

      by Reepicheep on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 03:02:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I tend to avoid the camoflage-decorated toys (7+ / 0-)

    I don't have too much of an issue with toy guns in general (and I loved toy guns as a kid), but I do find the camo-scheme guns a bit too militaristic.  Since so many mass murderers don camo pants to commit their shooting sprees, I just don't feel comfortable buying camo-themed toys for the kids any more.

  •  It's tough (6+ / 0-)

    It is hard being a parent and trying to live your own values at times. As someone who is extremely opposed to real guns, but who has 2 boys, I have had very mixed feelings about this kind of thing. Those kinds of toys didn't really seem to make the kids happy, either, because compared with some other things, shooting / sword type play has a tendency to wind them up. I think whether it ends up being a good addition to the home might depend on the kid.

  •  ...and? (3+ / 0-)

    I grew up playing with toy guns. Hundreds of thousands of us did, and never threatened, assaulted, or killed anybody.

  •  what would your rules be? don't shoot it in the (3+ / 0-)

    house? Don't shoot at your brother...? We never used to be this conflicted about the violence part- we just said, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 02:56:07 PM PST

  •  My sister in law prohibited toy guns (6+ / 0-)

    . . .and her young adult men are now obsessed with them. Since at least two of them are schizophrenic and one of those has problems differentiating between goo and bad and himself and jesus and or satan, this problem could end up very badly.

    My own son was permitted toys guns but never seemed to care much about them. We all want most that which is TABOO!

    let him have the toy nerf gun. It's a good opportunity to discuss guns with him without being overbearing.

  •  Tried this with my nephew (7+ / 0-)

    My step-sis and her husband tried to do the "no violent toys" thing with their son.  My parents even complied.  It wasn't long before the kid was making fake guns out of PVC pipe while granddad was working on the sprinklers and such.

    The kid is now 10ish and a military history buff, complete with writing so much about it for credit in school assignments that his teachers have banned him from doing any more essays on the subject.  He can rattle off tanks and planes and weapons and ammo from pretty much every military going back to WWI.

    So, that plan worked out pretty well, I'd say...

    Don't worry about toy guns.  Just teach kids the difference between fake violence and real violence.

  •  Not as dangerous as Lawn Jarts (6+ / 0-)

    My family loved playing Lawn Jarts--the real ones with metal tips--and we were quite reckless in tossing them about. Younger Kossites may not remember these, they were banned in 1988.

    When my parents weren't around we would throw them overhand at various back yard objects. I'm amazed we didn't kill each other, or at least put out an eye.

  •  As long as they don't handle BB guns, air guns, or (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Reepicheep, Joy of Fishes

    firearms, I see no issue with it. Once they start shooting any of those, it's time to put the toy guns away.

  •  Memories of toy guns (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Reepicheep, LilithGardener

    When I was in the sixth grade (1957), my parents bought me the greatest toy gun that had theretofore been made:  the Fanner 50.  I strapped it on with pride. Eventually, I had to hang up my guns, because I went through puberty and realized I was too old for that sort of thing.

    Out of nostalgia, I would occasionally browse around in a toy store, and look at the guns that were available.  There were many good looking toy guns, but the Fanner 50 still reigned supreme.

    Toward the end of the 1960s, a lot of people became very repulsed by violence, in large part, I suspect, a result of the Vietnam War.  A lot of women I knew refused to buy their children toy guns under any circumstances.  This made me wonder, so one day in 1971, I happened to be in a shopping mall, and I walked into a toy store to see if this informal toy-gun boycott was having any effect.  In the entire store, there was only a single toy gun of any sort:  a cheap Lone Ranger cap pistol, obviously intended for a little boy of six or seven years of age.  It hung there on the rack, alone and unloved.  There was dust on the plastic that encased it.

    Never before or since, has there been such a dearth of toy guns.  For those who do not like toy guns, and wish they were not for sale, this was your Golden Age. And yet, except for a few people like me, it came and went without notice.

    I can’t say whether it had the effect of reducing violence in the generation of little boys who were deprived of toy guns at that time, but I doubt it.

    •  Well, that generation is my generation. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      We're the adults now, and the country appears to be saturated with the damned things.  So I would give the effort a FAIL.

      "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

      by Reepicheep on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 03:39:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That strategy seems to have backfired. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Reepicheep, LilithGardener

      A generation of children was denied access to toy guns. Many of them seem to have reacted and overcompensated by going out and buying semi-auto AR-15s, Mini-14s, and AK-47s by the truck load.

      Perhaps the parents should have let them play with the darned toy guns to get that itch out of their system when they were kids.

      That's one 'theory'. My favorite working 'theory' to explain the explosion in military style gun popularity was the TV show The A-Team. My gut tells me that TV show popularized semi auto military weapons in a civilian context. That show was the best sales tool for the gun industry since the western movies of the 40s-50s. Just a wacko theory but I blame Hannibal, Face and Mr. T.

      •  Don't forget Miami Vice (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Reepicheep, LilithGardener

        Crockett looked so cool with his automatic:

        I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

        by CFAmick on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 09:09:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Naw. (0+ / 0-)

          I was referring to semi-automatic 'long guns' such as AR-15s, AKs, Mini-14s, etc.

          They were relatively rare in civilian hands up until the 90s and Naughties. I suspect the companies that manufactured that type of weapon were active in the art of 'product placement' on TV shows to get demand revved up for their new product lines. These are basically military weapons which have been minimally modified by having their native full automatic or burst fire capability throttled down to semi-automatic capability.

          Those gun manufacturers expanded their markets by targeting the civilian consumers with military style weaponry. I guess they couldn't get enough profit by targeting the government military markets around the world. I think this was a significant change in their corporate strategy because I don't think the gun manufacturers did anything similar after WWII and Korea or even Vietnam. My sense is that the change in strategy occurred during the late 80s and 90s.

          Maybe someone has an article on the subject.

  •  Stuff I didn't do for my now adult sons: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Reepicheep, HeyMikey, LilithGardener

    Let them have nerf guns until they were 8 (gifts from others).

    Let them have  water guns, until they went on a sleep over with the Boy Scouts and there was a troop water fight.

    They are o.k.  - a cognitive scientist who does user interfaces  and a mechanical engineer. However, I am never ever allowed to forget all of the things I did to wreck their lives ; ) .

    Displaying a picture of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and seven GOP colleagues sitting opposite empty chairs in a conference room, Maddow cracked, “Nobody learned anything from the Republican National Convention last year.”

    by sailmaker on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 03:28:35 PM PST

  •  a couple thoughts from a gun owner whose (3+ / 0-)

    kids shoot.

    I never did buy them shooting toys. They make "cachoo" guns out of legos and stuff anyway. And they got cast off zombie killing assault rifles for space men from friends, but Nurf guns and similar actually shoot something so you have to shoot somebody and... they do enough fighting with each other as it is. I was never freaked by fake guns that shoot, just don't like my kids shooting each other in the face. Littlest is a girl.

    I erased the entire spiel about kids and gun safety before posting.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 03:29:13 PM PST

  •  My grandmother ruled and she had rigid ideas about (4+ / 0-)

    "boy's toys" and "girl's toys."  My sister and I weren't allowed to have kites, because they were "boy's toys." (My daughter flew kites.)

    We weren't allowed to have toy guns ("boy's toys") but we improvised toy guns anyway.

    The only way I got a chemistry set--which I desperately desired--was after my father's very lawyerly presentation on my behalf, in which he invoked Madame Curie.

    The right of the women of this State to be secure in their persons against unreasonable searches shall not be violated by the State legislature.

    by Mayfly on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 03:47:19 PM PST

  •  There's a famous story by Saki, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, Reepicheep

    "The Toys of Peace", about a pair of progressive parents who toss their children's violent toys and replace them with models of social services (hospitals, libraries) and dolls representing historical and diplomatic figures.

    It's very short, but very funny.  I highly, highly recommend it.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 04:04:17 PM PST

  •  I have Nerf guns myself (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, Reepicheep

    I also have a number of Airsoft BB guns. I modify and repaint them to use as props in my homemade scifi movies for YouTube. Indeed, some of the low-budget scifi TV shows and movies have used repainted modded Nerf and/or Airsoft guns as props.

    On most of the movie prop forums, there are entire sections devoted to modding and repainting Nerf guns as props.

    They're, um, not real guns . . . . . . .

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 04:10:46 PM PST

    •  My son wants a Nerf gun, too. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      To add to his collection. He's 23.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 06:36:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the pride of my collection: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey, Reepicheep

        My "Aliens" Colonial Marines M41A1 pulse rifle, with over and under 30mm pump-action grenade launcher, fires 10mm standard light armor-piercing exploding-tip caseless ammunition. Game over, man.

        Well, actually it's made from an Airsoft Tommy gun, an Airsoft shotgun, and some plastic "for sale" signs.  ;)


        PS--I'm 52.  I only ACT like I'm 23.  ;)

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 06:51:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'd say just avoid any that are too realistic. (3+ / 0-)

    Otherwise, it's just part of being a boy. We like to throw and shoot at things, just to see if we can hit what we aim at. That said...

    It's your house, your kids, and it should be your rules. It doesn't really matter what the "majority" thinks. It matters what you think. I don't buy the thinking that your choice is going to affect the rest of their lives. After all, some people's parents are MUCH weirder than being anti Nerf gun.

    "Nothing happens unless first a dream. " ~ Carl Sandburg

    by davewill on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 04:29:32 PM PST

    •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If I didn't have toy guns as a kid, I'd have movies, video games, etc. I'd shoot something vicariously. If not guns, swords, knives, etc. Aliens, Nazis, who know what else.

      I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

      by CFAmick on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 09:12:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It doesn't have to be a major political/left-right (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    philosophical decision, y'know. It's been turned into a big political-cultural signifier (not coincidentally to the benefit of those who make & sell the things) but those messages aren't the only ones that matter. Or that are possible.

    I learned to shoot as a kid (grandpa's shotgun on the farm), as did my brothers, but my Mom was one of those vietnam-era parents who stayed away from gun/military toys. And my younger brother is now a cop, but they avoid gun-type toys for their two boys. I think what it comes down to is: weapons are not toys. If the kids want to learn to shoot at some point, they'll learn -- but with actual guns, which will be handled with respect. If they need to play shoot-em-up games, they can exercise their creativity & come up with substitutes -- but (at 8 & 11) neither of them has yet been all that interested.

    Do what makes you comfortable. They're your kids, you've got the right (within reasonable limits) to shape their world for as long as you can.

  •  I grew up at the right time. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    No worries about self-image issues at a time when boys idolized giant transforming robots, humanoid turtles that knew ninjitsu, and a chubby Italian plumber from Brooklyn.

  •  Take a look... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    At the new BB guns they have now. I use to shoot my BB gun in the woods across the street from my apartments when I was a teen. I would get shot by police carrying what they are selling these days.

  •  As the mother of two sons, I can say this: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, Reepicheep

    even if you don't buy them toys guns (nerf, cowboy, etc.) or weapons, they will turn common household items (empty toilet paper rolls, paint brushes, wooden trains) into guns and weapons.

    They will do this if you do not allow them to watch violent movies or TV shows or even cartoons (like Tom & Jerry or various Looney Tunes cartoons).

    They will do this even if--when they do somehow witness violence--you calmly discuss why such violence is wrong.

    I really think it's just a genetic thing that males tend to just...have. My two lovely sons (now getting close to leaving elementary school for middle school) were not exposed to violence. We do not own guns, and I did not allow them to buy toy guns (though they were allowed to keep the nerf guns they received as a birthday present). When my husband said it was OK to let them get cap guns at the dollar store, for the first time ever, I over-ruled him in front of our children. We screen any violence they get through electronic media. We discuss violence when they are exposed to it through the news or tv, etc.

    STILL, give these male children legos, and along with building cars and houses and robots, they'll build spaceships with weapons (guns). Give them art supplies, and they will build a treasure chest or make farm animals with clay...and then build a gun or sword with cardboard and tape...or just turn their marker into a gun and start having a play battle. They'll build a village with their blocks...a village populated with their  stuffies...and they'll bomb it to pieces and then have their stuffies engage in a huge fight complete with sound effects.

    I really think the best thing you can do is guide them and talk to them about real-world violence when the opportunity arises. Not allowing toy guns or weapons does not stop them from engaging in violent pretend play (though it will save you a few bucks as it's cheaper to turn a carrot stick into a gun than buying a nerf one ;) ).

  •  I never had any toy guns (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but I was given real guns at a very young age.  (My dad isn't political at all, but he is very pro-gun and was almost absurdly comfortable with his kids having access to them when I was young.)  I had a 20 gauge and a .22 well before I was in junior high and I was allowed to hunt small game with them without adult presence.  I had a 760 Pumpmaster pellet gun by at least age 9 (probably before that--the memory is a little fuzzy) and was allowed to use that unsupervised as well.  Actually, I was told to go eradicate snakes, starlings, and "English" sparrows.  

    Apparently, having access to firearms earlier than many kids do didn't really cause a great affinity for them as all the RKBAers think I want guns banned.  

    I wouldn't worry too much about a Nerf gun--your children will be exposed to many concerning things that you won't have control (or knowledge) of.  Just teach your kids right from wrong, realize that they ALWAYS understand more than you give them credit for, and never miss a chance to hug them and tell them how special they are to you.  Do those things and they'd be fine even if you bought them a nuclear arsenal.  

    Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

    by Mark Mywurtz on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 07:18:52 PM PST

    •  You are very brave (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mark Mywurtz

      to bring this up in this journal. I originally wrote a response just like this in reply but I deleted before posting because I figured it would just cause an argument. I wanted to point out how different people are culturally when it comes to guns, depending where you are in located in the U.S.

      I just was out with my seven-year-old son shooting a .22-caliber pistol. I think that the OP would think me a monster, to hear that. He's a great shot. Of course I have taught him all about gun safety. But in light of that, the idea of worrying about whether or not to buy a kid a Nerf gun . . . well, we're just on opposite sides of the ocean in terms of our world view, obviously.

      •  I don't know (0+ / 0-)

        I'm not sure if you've seen my comment history on the subject, but my views on guns are a lot more nuanced than either "any new regulation is an infringement" or "ban all guns".  

        I grew up around guns and I'm very comfortable with the long guns that have been traditionally used for hunting.  However, something has changed when it comes to guns in this country and I think we need to be realistic and address those changes.  

        I support people being able to access and use firearms lawfully in this country but I also think there are needed regulatory changes that wouldn't adversely affect reasonable access and use of firearms and would improve public safety.  

        Anyway, regarding the subject at hand, I'm not so sure my dad's approach of "here ya go, be back at dark" was the best for most situations, but I was kind of a serious kid who acted a little more grown up than a lot of kids my age at the time.  (Not necessarily the case now....)  However, I am completely supportive of parents teaching their children safe and responsible firearm handling at the age that parent believes their child is capable of such.  And based on my own experience, I wanted to make the point that access to guns doesn't necessarily mean the kid will grow up excessively interested in them.  Of course, I didn't really have toy guns--didn't need them.  

        I know the geography thing comes up a lot--I try not to bring that into it because too often it comes off as, "You city people don't know the first thing about guns so keep your nose out of our business."  Not to mention, rural areas have plenty of gun problems of their own.  

        Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

        by Mark Mywurtz on Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 04:53:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I want one for myself! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's never too late to have a happy childhood.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 07:58:33 PM PST

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