While many parents have a wide range of views on the subject, it really is a matter of personal choice, made out of love for their children. Whatever a parent’s choice is, it deserves respect and deference.
As is this case with any other toy,
it is ultimately a parent’s decision whether or not to let their children play with toy guns.
The important thing is that when parents do make their decisions,
they are well-informed when doing so.
Making a well-considered decision will help parents be on the same page with each other regarding this topic.
A clear, reasoned decision also might help the children understand why they are or are not allowed to play with toy guns when they see someone else playing with one, or, on the other hand, have a friend whose parents prohibit the practice.
Further, deliberation may prevent misunderstandings between the parents and other people involved in their kids’ lives, including relatives and teachers.
With this in mind, here are some general considerations for parents making this important decision:
Benefits of Toy Gun Play
Guns teach skills like self-control and teamwork
Kids who play with toy guns will not always do so alone. At some point in their lives, they are going play with their toy guns together with other boys or girls who also have toy weapons.
In order to keep their play fun and not a chaotic free-for-all, the kids will have to learn, with adult supervision sometimes, how to set up and abide by certain rules and standards.
These sorts of environments are good for a child because, as with any other childhood game, the child is going to have to learn unwritten rules like when enough is enough, how to share, how to argue politely, and how to help other people who might be in some sort of need. The game also might promote the child’s sense of justice and fair play.
Playing with toy guns now can teach kids how to use real guns safely
Many children’s first experience with “driving” a car might involve riding a tricycle or playing with a toy car, and the same is true with those whose first experience “shooting” was with a toy gun or a water pistol.
While the guns are not nearly as powerful as real firearms, the child has to care for her gun, load it properly, and make sure to aim it correctly, all skills she will need should she want to use a real gun safely later in life.
The toy gun is also a great opportunity for parents to teach kids about gun safety and respect. For example, they can insist that the child never point the weapon at anyone else unless they are part of the game, and to never, ever point a weapon at a baby, an unsuspecting adult, etc.
Of course, handling a real firearm requires considerably more care and attention, but a toy gun gives a parent the head start on teaching a child respect for the real thing.
It can encourage a child to imagine good things
While many parents might worry that allowing a child to play with toy guns can entice the child’s imagination in to dark places playing with a toy gun can also inspire a child to lofty and noble thoughts and ambitions as well.
For instance, a child playing with a gun might imagine that he or she is a superhero trying to protect and save innocent lives from evil. As the child gets older, that fantasy might transform into a strong desire to work in law enforcement one day.
Society of course needs law enforcement officers to do the dangerous work of stopping criminals, including terrorists, and keeping the general public out of harm’s way. Playing make believe with a toy gun may be the first step a youngster takes toward this honorable profession.
Parents have more than enough to do when it comes to keeping up with their kids. For their own sanity, they have to pick their battles when they are trying to instill their values in to their kids.
In this respect, there’s just no reason to believe that a kid who plays with toy guns is going to turn in to a mass murderer or violent person when he grows up.
After all, for generations, kids have played with toy guns, and, in virtually every case, they either turned out alright or go awry for reasons that have nothing to do with what toys they played with.
Cons of Playing with Toy Guns
They are dangerous
When parents won’t let their children do something, the simple answer for why not is almost always ‘”it’s not safe.” Toy guns, and particularly those that fire projectiles, are no exception.
A flying projectile from a toy gun can seriously injure another child’s eye, and games involving guns at some point almost always end up with someone tripping or otherwise getting hurt during the rough play.
Moreover, the argument can be made that toy guns desensitize a child to the inherent dangers of real firearms, making them more likely to pick real weapons up and play with them as if they were toys. The results of a child’s doing so can end in a profound loss….
They encourage children to be violent
The flip side of the argument that toy guns are dangerous is that they simply aren’t dangerous enough in that kids rarely actually feel the real pain that violence causes others.
After all, playing with a gun to some degree takes the ugliness out of violence. A child who plays with toy guns can form the impression that guns are a great, efficient way to solve the child’s problems without any serious consequences. They thus become a valid option when the child gets frustrated.
The gun also might seem attractive if a child discovers she cannot work out, or does not wish to work out, a conflict with someone else.
They promote violence and bad behaviour in the broader culture
On a related point, allowing play with toy guns, even if the play seems to be innocent, encourages violence, and bad behavior, in the culture abroad. In other words, even if the child and his companions would never really hurt anyone, their playing with toy guns still sends out a message that violence is okay.
The problem is that it is hard for anyone to draw a precise line of where “play” ends and bad behavior/violence begins.
For example, one child can think shooting someone with a toy gun is play, and may be quite right, but the next child may see no problem with taking it the next step and actually hitting a child or throwing a rock. After all, if shooting someone with a toy gun is “play,’ what is wrong with hitting or throwing as a game?
Speaking more generally, the best way to spread a message through society that violence is never acceptable is to never allow it, even as a form of play.
They can lead to tragic mistakes
There was at least one famous recent case in the United States of a police officer shooting and killing a boy who was playing with a toy gun.
Although this case is controversial for a lot of reasons, there was some argument that the police officer did not recognize the toy gun as a toy and thought the boy had a real weapon. The officer felt his life was in danger when he shot the kid.
There have been other scary cases involving look-alike weapons, not to mention the fact that criminals sometimes attempt to pass look-alike toy guns as real weapons.
They are immoral
Many parents might object to toy guns on religious and moral grounds. Many Christian denominations and other religions practice a strict pacifism that prohibits all violence and vengeance.
Even if one has no particular religious affiliation, they may still see it as fundamentally immoral for one person to harm another. People with these sorts of beliefs will likely find no or negative value in letting their children play with toy guns.
Absent laws banning toy guns, it is up to a parent whether to buy them for their children or even to let their children be around them. There are many reasons why a parent might choose not to allow their children to play with toy guns, but there are just as many good reasons to permit the practice.
It is also possible for parents to reach some middle ground. For example, a parent who allows toy guns may wish to insist that their child use the gun safely if their child wants to keep the toy.
On the other hand, parents who prohibit toy guns might need to recognize that their child might not fit in with their peers who do play with toy guns and work on making sure their child gets properly integrated in to his peer group.
The important thing for parents is that they do their homework and, once they come to a decision on this issue, they understand the other position well enough to account for it as they go forward.