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Your thoughts on guns, please...

post #1 of 163
Thread Starter 
I'm having a hard time with this topic. I hate getting overly involved with background, but I kinda feel it's warranted this time.

My son is 3.5. Our neighbor kids have a ridiculous arsenal of play guns. They are 7 and 9. I don't really make any comments to them about their guns, but they do a lot of violent play (even without the guns) so it has been discussed to quite an extent with DS.

He also has a grandfather (my dad) who is really into guns, but only for target practice and hunting. He goes hunting a few times a year, once with my step-brother, and they share the meat with us. My Dad is super super paranoid about gun safety and has his guns under triple lock and key, and he's the only one who has the key to the room they are stored in. My DS has seen a few of Papa's guns when he happened upon him cleaning them, but the guns were immediately re-stored once DS came in the room. Papa has indicated that he really wants to teach DS how to use a gun when he is the appropriate age (we have not agreed yet on an age) and to take him hunting when he is a teen. I can just hear the excitement in both their voices when they talk about it. We have had endless conversations about it, I've played "hunting" with him, and we've watched some YouTube videos of skeet shooting competitions in an attempt to take some of the new sheen off the topic. He's still obsessed.

I hate guns. I feel they can be used as a tool, and I don't have a problem with the hunting stuff (as long as we talk about safety and laws and conservation and all that at some point) but that kind of gun play inevitably leads to shooting people (especially with the neighbor kids outside shooting each other all the time ).

I have read some of Playful Parenting and the author says that this is a typical thing they just have to work through. We do not have any toy guns, but everything else has become a gun. What sorts of things do you teach through this type of play? What's age appropriate for 3.5yo? Do I tell him not to shoot people, or let him work through that? How do I answer the every 15 min questions "Am I old enough for a gun yet?" Do I get over my feelings about playing games where I am an animal and he shoots me (it just feels so yucky to me) or limit his games to non-people shooting?

What are your thoughts? I'm willing to hear both sides of the argument. I know this is a hot topic, I hope I haven't offended anyone.

TIA.
post #2 of 163
Good questions. I don't have anyone super-close in our family who hunts, but we do have family and friends with guns (all very responsible as mentioned)

My thoughts are that I would not allow shooting of people in play at all, ever (even if people are "pretending" to be animals)

I would set an age to discuss the gun so that there isn't the constant when when when. Set an age that you're comfortable with, it will be much easier to bring it lower than move it higher. Say- We can discuss you having a gun at 10 (or whatever...) and stick to the number for now so that the questions can become un-needed (then can become not tolerated )

good luck!

-Angela
post #3 of 163
Thread Starter 
Oh crap, I posted this in the wrong forum. Mods, could you move this to Parenting please?
post #4 of 163
I'll keep it short.

I've never had a problem with my kids playing with toy guns. DS1 had a moderate arsenal (was way more into swords and such, though) as a child. The only real rule I ever had was that he wasn't to "shoot" at anybody who didn't want to be "shot" at, as I know some people are really bothered by that. Other than that, it was pretty much free play, to the best of my recollection (he's 17, and those days seem like a lifetime ago). I've honestly never understood why people object to toy guns, so I can't really give you any 'counters".

Real guns? We don't have any in our circle, and I don't believe any of my kids have ever seen one, except maybe on a police officer's belt, in passing. The issue of gun safety, etc. has never really come up much. I wouldn't have a problem with them learning to shoot/hunt at an appropriate age...which would vary from one child to another. In ds2's case, I'm guessing...30? (Okay - kidding, but sort of not kidding.)

I'm probably incoherent, as my brain is shutting down due to heat.
post #5 of 163
I would not interfere with or mediate his play when he's playing with other kids, unless someone's unhappy. But I think it's perfectly appropriate to say "I don't enjoy the game where you pretend to shoot me, and I won't play it with you."

I agree that setting an age where you will CONSIDER a gun is a good idea -- not before you're ten (or whatever), after that it's up to you to prove to me that you're responsible and careful and can respect the gun rules. And then remind him that he may not ask about it before then.
post #6 of 163
I agree with Playful Parenting for the most part - it's normal but it's okay to turn the play in a different direction.

We only have a couple of water guns but other things have turned into guns, and we have swords and a lightsaber. (I don't really know how to explain that - it's better to kill people in an archaic and personal way? )

However our rule for play is "you don't shoot people who aren't playing that game with you and okay with it. Guns bother many people."

This rule came up after I spoke with an acquaintance who is a refugee and she talked about how the play disturbs her...I was looking for a way to frame the discussion anyway and it motivated me to make a rule. I can't say my son always remembers it but he tries.

For real guns, we have a relative who has a gun (he keeps it at his shooting range, not in his home). I want to learn to to shoot it sometime and I've said when my son is 15 or 16 if he would like to and this relative is willing then he can. But it's not coming from my son at this point. I like the idea of "we'll talk about it when you're 12" or something. I don't know a lot about hunting culture so I can't really speak to that.
post #7 of 163
My thoughts? 1. Guns are for protection and seeking food (hunting). 2. Play guns should never look like real guns, and they should never be played with by shooting at another human, even if they're playing "cops and robbers". 3. Guns should ONLY be kept in the house with safety in mind (locked up, separate from bullets).

DH's family owns guns. DH has a gun, but it is kept at the in-law's house because we don't have the means to safely store it. When we do have a safe, I want a gun (two actually, one for hunting, one for safety), but only after going through a gun safety course and learning how to shoot propperly. We will teach our children about gun safety from the minute we purchase a gun safe (before the guns get in the house). They will know not to mess with the safe, and when they are at an age of responsibility and accountability (for this subject, I think it would be around 15 or 16), we will put them through a gun safety course and, if they wish, purchase them a gun for hunting.
post #8 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
We only have a couple of water guns but other things have turned into guns, and we have swords and a lightsaber. (I don't really know how to explain that - it's better to kill people in an archaic and personal way? )

However our rule for play is "you don't shoot people who aren't playing that game with you and okay with it. Guns bother many people."
I think its sort of an unavoidable phase of play for most people. I would set rules that apply to weapons in general...slingshots, water cannons, bricks, kitchen knives. We don't shoot people who don't want to be shot (especially with the water cannon!); we don't point butter knives at people; we don't throw bricks at people, we don't turn people into toads with the magic wand unless they want it, etc.

As for real guns, I would set an age for that and make it the end of the conversation, just like "when can I drive?"

It's a tough line to walk....

ETA: I guess what I'm saying is that I would phrase the rule in a "respecting others" way. HTH.
post #9 of 163
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
I agree with Playful Parenting for the most part - it's normal but it's okay to turn the play in a different direction.

We only have a couple of water guns but other things have turned into guns, and we have swords and a lightsaber. (I don't really know how to explain that - it's better to kill people in an archaic and personal way? )
Wow, thanks for all the fast replies!

That's funny, GuildJenn, we also have several swords, one that is even bigger than DS . I think a sword feels different to me because I can defend myself. Our rule with swords is that you don't sword fight anyone unless they also have a sword and agree to fight. With a gun, it's pretty much "Bang, I killed you!" and that's it.
post #10 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by justKate View Post
I think its sort of an unavoidable phase of play for most people. I would set rules that apply to weapons in general...slingshots, water cannons, bricks, kitchen knives. We don't shoot people who don't want to be shot (especially with the water cannon!); we don't point butter knives at people; we don't throw bricks at people, we don't turn people into toads with the magic wand unless they want it, etc.

As for real guns, I would set an age for that and make it the end of the conversation, just like "when can I drive?"

It's a tough line to walk....

ETA: I guess what I'm saying is that I would phrase the rule in a "respecting others" way. HTH.
That's a much better way to put it generally.
post #11 of 163
Well, we do have guns so that may skew my answer a bit.

Our boys are obsessed. With guns, shooting, war, Army, etc. We don't have toy guns because guns are not toys. They're very real and since we do have them in the house, I don't want gun and toy associated. Now, my boys are typical boys and turn anything into a gun. So we have some rules for that. Mainly, they're never to shoot people.

DS1 knows that he can hunt when he's 12, so that's what we talk about. He has shot a gun a few times at targets and that's all he'll be allowed to do until he's 12ish. Even now at their ages (8 & 4), we talk about guns, what to do if you see one, safety, etc. It's never too early to start, imo.
post #12 of 163
I never really made a big deal of gun play when mine were little. My brother, his friends and I played "War" together when we were kids - to the point of digging foxholes, building forts, setting booby traps, etc. They were some good times.

My kids had some toy guns - I didn't go out of the way to either buy them or ban them. Water pistols, to me, are a different animal.

Both my Dad and brother have guns. I don't even know where they're stored, except that they are not accessible.

We live in an area where a lot of people hunt, so I took both of my kids to gun safety classes as soon as they were old enough.
post #13 of 163
Quote:
I've never had a problem with my kids playing with toy guns. DS1 had a moderate arsenal (was way more into swords and such, though) as a child. The only real rule I ever had was that he wasn't to "shoot" at anybody who didn't want to be "shot" at, as I know some people are really bothered by that. Other than that, it was pretty much free play, to the best of my recollection (he's 17, and those days seem like a lifetime ago). I've honestly never understood why people object to toy guns, so I can't really give you any 'counters".
I agree with this. IMO, guns are really no different than any other play weapons and it's been my experience that kids, of both genders, tend to turn anything into weapons to play with. Bananas become guns, straws become swords etc...especially of they are denied the actual toys. And, I find that very few kids who engage in this sort of play come even close to wanting to kill people.

Now, as to REAL guns...they scare the piss out of me. My DH is former military and when we met, he was a correctional officer. He obviously has LOTS of experience with guns and gun safety. Even so, dd1 was 6 when we got married and one of the very few things I put my foot down on was that I didn't want a real gun in the house. He doesn't hunt, so the gun he owned was for "protection" and a little bit of practice for work (obviously out at the range etc.)

My reason was, my dad had a gun. I remember regularly finding it and "playing" with it when I was a kid. My dad totally kept the safety on, and the ammo was kept totally seperate and I don't recall ever finding that. But, that doesn't change the fact that we could have easily gotten it out of the house and played with it elsewhere etc. So, no guns around my kids. If I could find my dad's, my kids could find DH's and figure out how to "play" with them.

Having said that...I do 100% believe that if there are going to be real guns where the kids are, it's way way way safer to expose them to the guns and teach them proper gun safety than it is to try to pretend the guns don't exist. To me, it's like water safety...it's safer to teach a child to swim than to never bring the child around water.
post #14 of 163
We don't have guns and we don't spend time in the homes of people who have guns, period. We talk a lot about why that is the case.

We don't buy guns, with the exception of supersoaker types, where getting wet is the point, and everyone has to want to join in or we don't use them.

If kids chose to form guns out of their fingers or sticks or whatever, while we don't encourage it, we don't forbid it.
post #15 of 163
Well for us guns are in our life. I personally dont have a problem with responsible gun ownership/use. Meanining when the day comes DH will teach the kids how to use a gun/clean it/how to get a license and so forth.

I do have a problem with play "shooting" because for us guns are not considered a "toy" they are tool for hunting/sport/protection and irl shooting someone is a very serious legal/ethical/religous matter for our family so personally I dont feel comfortable with the boys pretending to shoot people.

It seems that the boys get it, for example our neighbors have every play gun imaginable actually some are quite realistic that i've taken a double take. Teh boys will often comment on it and dosent x know that guns are not toys? because they seem them running around and shooting each other and laughing.

I also wanted to make sure that they know basic gun safety because although we are very careful we knwo that they may one day encounter them at someone elses house or child.
post #16 of 163
I know people in a similar situation to you. Their rules are more or less:

You can play hunting, but murder is not a game and you never shoot people.

You may have non-realistic toy guns, since you make them out of pieces of toilet paper anyway, but you may not play with them at the park as some children do not like that kind of game.

You can go hunting with your dad when you are X years old IF you show the responsibility you need to be around a weapon.

(I think having a concrete number helps.)

Re: Swords, well, we just say you can't hit a person with a sword, but you can fence. Fencing is a sport. You can't stab. You may, however, use the sword as a tool.

(ETA... I was way more anal about this until my sister married a gun-owner and my husband joined the military and I was basically faced with the reality of the lives of small children...)
post #17 of 163
I wouldn't worry about the kids playing cops & robbers or any other such game with other kids whose parents aren't opposed to gun play. No big deal there, as long as they are pre-pubescent. I have some friends (guys in their mid 20s) who got arrested for playing with toy guns in their own front yard. They weren't aiming the guns at anybody else, and they weren't being especially loud. One person was wearing a chicken suit. Still, somebody didn't think it was funny, so they called the cops, and my buddies were all arrested (one was handcuffed and taken downtown dressed like a chicken). Moral is: playing with toy guns is okay up until a certain age, as long as there aren't sensitive neighbors around, and nobody's wearing a costume.

Now, instead of pretending you're an animal, and your child pointing the gun at you, I'd suggest putting stuffed animals and dolls around. Leave some out in the open, and others hidden. Use that as an opportunity to teach your child that 1.) don't shoot at the dolls because they're people and 2.) don't shoot at an animal unless it's a clear shot.

When playing cops & robbers, make sure both the cops & the robbers have weapons.

Also, have a "safe place" for the toy guns, in case other visiting kids' parents don't approve.
post #18 of 163
We're a gun-owning family and gun safety is our number one priority. DH cleans the guns on the kitchen table and DS (21 months) watches curiously from his high chair. As he cleans the guns, DH talks about them in very simplistic terms, modeled after the NRA's Eddie Eagle program. All children should learn these basic rules by a young age, IMHO. Even families that don't own guns may encounter families that do, or their children might find a gun at a friend's house, or in the woods, or whatever. Talking about gun safety is vital. Guns, once demystified, become objects that don't have that forbidden fruit allure and are just as "off-limits" as the chemicals under the sink or the power tools in the garage.

As DS (and our other children) get older, we'll instill in them the extreme importance of the Four Rules and insist that they demonstrate both understanding and respect of those rules before we allow them to handle a gun. Then we'll take them to the range and enroll them in shooting lessons and, once they've demonstrated basic marksmanship, they can begin to think about owning their own gun.

Guns for us are not toys, any more than a chainsaw or a power saw is a toy. They're extremely useful tools that, used unsafely, can kill human beings. So I don't think toy guns that aren't brightly colored neon water guns will ever be welcome in our home. I don't want to confuse our children and I don't want them to associate guns with careless play. Not that shooting isn't a fun sport! But like many other sports, it must be done with the proper equipment and only after taking the proper precautions.

The extremely excellent site, Cornered Cat, which is designed by a mother of five exclusively for women who own guns and/or want to know how to teach their children gun safety, has some great information about kids and guns. I highly recommend that all mamas read it, even if you never plan to own or handle a gun yourself. Not teaching your children the basic rules of gun safety just because you yourself do not own guns, seems to me to be as shortsighted as not teaching them to swim just because you don't own a pool or go to the beach. Guns are everywhere and knowing to

Stop! Don't Touch! Leave the Area! Tell an Adult!

could literally save a child's life.

One last comment and then I'll hop off my soapbox: I highly recommend that anyone who hates and/or fears guns take a basic gun safety course. The NRA, among other organizations, has courses designed just for women that are usually taught by female instructors and are very gentle and not at all macho or intimidating. You don't have to own a gun or shoot one regularly, but as an adult who may encounter a gun while out and about or in an acquaintance's home, you should have the ability to safely and responsibly handle a firearm well enough to neutralize it and put it out of reach of little hands. If you don't know what trigger discipline is, or don't have the aforementioned Four Rules committed to heart so well that you could recite them in your sleep, please consider learning at least the very basics of firearms safety. Knowledge is power.

(And who knows, you might just enjoy plinking at targets once in awhile. It really is fun! And one of the few sports in which women often surpass men. )
post #19 of 163


Excellent post, Peainthepod!
post #20 of 163
Quote:
Originally Posted by luv-my-boys View Post
I do have a problem with play "shooting" because for us guns are not considered a "toy" they are tool for hunting/sport/protection and irl shooting someone is a very serious legal/ethical/religous matter for our family so personally I dont feel comfortable with the boys pretending to shoot people.
Devil's advocating here, but chainsaws, spoons, sinks, and cars are all tools, but we allow children to play with toy versions of them. If every child who grew up with a play kitchen ended up burning their home down as adults because they put slippers in the oven as they did when they were kids, no one would be able to afford fire insurance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luv-my-boys View Post
I also wanted to make sure that they know basic gun safety because although we are very careful we knwo that they may one day encounter them at someone elses house or child.
I think this is important for all kids, too. Good job!
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