Why I won't let my kids play with toy guns

Susan refuses to allow toy guns in her house, regardless of how much her sons want to play with them.

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“What do you want for your birthday, Isaac?”

“A Nerf gun.”

“Well, what else do you want for your birthday?”

“A kit to make a Nerf gun.”

“I see.”

“Are you going to get me a Nerf gun?”

“What do you think?”

“Yes!”

No.

We are not going to get him a Nerf gun, not for his birthday or Hanukkah or Christmas or any other occasion. We’re not going to pick up that toy gun at the garage sale. Even though that’s all he wants, even though it’s only a quarter, even though every stick becomes a weapon anyway, even though they’re just toys, shooting orange foam bullets, even though so many of the kids have them and they’re not real. We are not going to get him a Nerf gun, or any other kind of gun.

I waver on this sometimes. I hear the voices in my brain telling me to lighten up a bit. They’re just toys, the voices say. They’re not going to grow up to be mass murderers. They’re just playing. Just loosen your standards the way you have on, say, sugar and red dye #2 and pizza day and getting to school on time and the perfect coat of sunscreen and fart jokes and juice boxes and driving instead of cycling and screen time and any number of the standards I have set so high only to watch them tumble down under the weight of reality and fatigue and competing demands. What will it hurt?

And as I waver, the guns sneak into the house — on top of our fridge right now is a pink toy revolver and two, genre-unspecified plastic guns that Isaac managed to “trade” with a friend down the street. I try not to make a big deal about the guns when they do sneak in. But if I see one lying around I shove it under the couch with my foot or place it somewhere high enough that my younger son won’t see it, and make a mental note to return contraband weapons to our neighbours’.

The Star Wars Lego figures come with guns — I get it. The laser tag birthday party — I get it. The antiquated video arcade at the airport with the game with the rifle — I get it. It’s all around us. How will one small stance make any difference?

What will it hurt? I’ve read all the arguments, back and forth. And fine, people can argue. But it’s not logic that compels this particular decision, not the statistics for the evidence either way, although I am — unsurprisingly — very much on the side of the anti-gun movement.

It’s just that every time I consider just relaxing about the guns I think about Newtown. I think of the blur of massacres, murders, accidents, atrocities, stretching back as far as I can remember and I think, No. I’m not going to actively support and participate in a culture — even if it’s just pretend — designed to maim and kill and threaten and destroy. I don’t care if my stance is only symbolic. I don’t care if it’s hypocritical, untenable, illogical, hysterical. I’m not buying toy guns for my kids because, well, I’m not. They’ll live just fine without them, and I’ll live with myself just that bit more peacefully.

What is your stance on toy guns? Tweet me @MamaNonGrata.

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