I spent a few days recently with a family who will not let their children play with toy guns. Far be it from me to tell someone how to raise children, but on this I have an opinion that I can not restrain. I will be the first to admit that toy guns can create some bad habits, but that is easy enough to correct at an early age. However, if you make the toy guns taboo, you make them all the more disirable. Especially when the other kids have them. Kids like toy guns, if you try to stop them, they will make them out of sticks, and play with toy guns at their freinds house.
I recently was watching “OP Restrepo” on PBS, which I highly recommend. There is a scene with a young soldier talking about being raised by his Mom who he describes as a “Hippie.” He says that he was never allowed to play with toy guns. At one point in his childhood someone gave him a toy that squirt water, but was not shaped like a gun. However, since it said “squirt gun” on the side of it, he could not keep it. He tells us this story as he is loading his Mark-19 grenade launcher then fires a volley from it. If his Mom could see him now!
The other situation that always worries me is the household where they have a gun (or guns) but the children are not allowed to see them. They are the dirty little secret that again are strickly taboo-(don’t touch). So what do you think the kids look for when they are alone or with a baby sitter? That’s right the guns. Is this really how you want your kids to learn about firearms? On their own?
When I married my wife, she had an nine year old son from a previous marraige. Before we were married, he was at my place. I took out a 9mm pistol, dropped the magazine, locked the slide back. I explained that this is the only way you except a gun from someone, or pick one up. I handed it to him and released the slide. I let him point it at the taxidermy around the room until he was tired. It was all of a minute. It was heavy and his attention span was done. I strongly emphasized that any time he wanted to hold a gun, he just needed to let me know. I kept up my side of the bargain. We would go target shooting on occaision when he was growing up, and he played with toy guns. Some of his friends were really in to guns, but he was not. He is a chef in his mid-tewnties now and to the best of my knowledge he doesn’t own any firearms.
Now a few words on the safety side. Remember you can not be too safe. I have a brother-in-law who has trained his children in the proper handling of firearms, that’s great. But, one day when I went to visit he opened up the unlocked glass front gun cabinet in his diningroom and handed me a Mini-14 he had just purchased. In the bottm of the cabinet was a stack of loaded magazines. I asked if he really thought that was a good idea? He proudly told me that all of his kids, six, were trained and were safe with guns. I pointed out that was awesome but, what about their friends? They have friends over, but how do you know that they know any thing about guns? He had to concede to me on that one. I futher pointed out how bad it would be to walk in on an intruder and be looking at the business end of his own Mini-14. Since he never locked his doors that could happen easy enough. These things have been corrected.
I know if you read this column you probably do the right things, but if it keeps one kid safe it was well worth writing another chapter to FM (Field Manuel)-7-Andringa.
Thanks for reading,
Eric J. Andringa