Children and Guns Part 4

What’s Really Responsible for the Deaths of Our Nation’s Children?


This is part of a four-part blog series addressing Children and Guns.  Part I – want to ensure your kid never commits a crime?  Give him a gun.  Part II addresses myths of gun safety – what you must know in order to truly protect your children.  Part III  addresses when it is safe to educate your child on firearms.  Part IV explores what’s really responsible for the death of our nation’s children.  If you enjoy what you read, please comment and share on your blog or Twitter.  Thank you. 


This is the final part in a series I’ve been writing on Children and Guns. 


children-toy-guns1I’ll start right off with answering the question, “What is Really Responsible for the Deaths of Our Nation’s Children?”  This is specifically posed to the deaths that result from guns being inappropriately used by children, and not all of the other more deadly causes of death discussed in Part II of this series.  The answer is the somewhat naïve position that parents take regarding “toy guns” and the entertainment that we expose our children to.  Allow me to show you why this is indeed the case.  


As you well know, the media and overwhelming political powers have successfully positioned in the minds of caring parents that children and guns simply don’t mix–when in fact, children and guns collide whether you like it or not.  In this regard, the only decision you really get to make is if you prepare for it by making this a positive concert or a deadly clash.


children-toy-guns-2The other night I was at a family gathering watching 12 raucous boys ranging in age from 3 to 12 in the back yard. There were all kinds of “boy toys” back there such as foam swords, balls, and even a plastic gun.  I was livid however, when one of the boys picked up a toy gun and began “shooting” his cousin with it.  Clearly this child has not been taught anything about the proper use of guns in his environment (Yes, I did intercede and took the moment to educate…not that it will do any good unless it’s reinforced in his home as well). 


Let me speak plainly.  While I firmly believe and have even provided you with statistics that guns are not the “bad guy”, and are not the killer that the media and political diatribe would have you believe, they still are—100%—to be fully respected and confined to their proper perspective. 


It may sound odd to some parents to know that my husband and I—who are avid shooters and in full support of their use for self-defense—have agreed that we will not have ANY toy guns in the home.  A child’s desire to play with a toy gun is merely a mimicking and acting out of what he has seen on T.V. or at his friend’s home.  However, the creation of toy guns is actually our nation creating a promise for disaster. In actuality it’s downright shocking that more deaths of children combined with guns do not occur.  Think about it.  A perfectly dangerous childhood-obesity1combination exists with all of the inconsequential violence that your children are subjected to in video games, movies, and other social activities, combined with the fact that there are over 300 million legally held guns in the U.S. and over 73 million children under the age of 18. So if we were to actually believe the picture that the media feeds us, shouldn’t there be MORE deaths involving children and guns?  I mean seriously, if the media painted overeating and refined sugar as the villains that they really are the same way they portray guns in the presence of children, we’d have a very different health status in our American youth.  It’s hard to uncover any other way that children die which receives more focus by the media in America.  Regardless, one life lost unnecessarily is too many in my opinion, especially when it truly is so easily avoidable.  The key aspect of this problem is that our nation has come to accept a dichotomous position, yet the two sides of this position simply cannot coexist and still foster gun safety with children.  


There’s NO Such Thing as a “Toy” Gun

mbgun1It defies logic to think that we can simply teach children that “play” guns are acceptable but “real” guns are not, when “play” guns always instill the physical action of pointing and shooting!  Parents have an even tougher challenge in this regard when we consider that “play” guns are expertly mimicking the appearance of real guns today.  Parents, you simply cannot have it both ways.  You can’t successfully have a world of toy guns and a world of real guns.  Remember, you can’t control what your children will find outside of your home.  The rules for guns need to be consistent, and deliberate whether it’s a “play gun” or a “real gun.”  Teach your children that there’s no such thing as a “toy” gun.  Non-real guns can be used to teach skills, safety awareness, etc.  But every gun your child comes into contact with should be viewed with the same safety rules and respect as a gun which shoots real bullets and can take another’s life, otherwise it’s playing Russian Roulette in it’s truest form.  There’s too much else that your child is exposed to which is relentlessly fighting against your message to your children of gun safety.  As such, you can’t afford for there to be any confusion on the subject.  You are either going to teach your children unequivocal truths about gun safety, with no exceptions, or you are going to fail miserably.  Does this mean that you shouldn’t teach you children how to shoot, how to clean a gun, how to hunt, how to enjoy shooting sports, and how to defend themselves?  Absolutely not.  In fact, quite to the contrary. 


children-bb-gunWhen a child is old enough to pick up a toy gun and begin playing with it, this is the perfect time to take him into the education process of teaching him the REAL world of guns.  Start teaching him how to clean them.  Teach him the safety rules, all of them, again and again.  Take him shooting.  Take him to a REAL gun training class (like the kind that Women of Caliber offers to children 5 and up with a parent present).  My husband and I even bought our niece a BB gun when she was 5 (with her mother’s permission, of course) and taught her how to shoot it.  Bottom line, you can’t successfully outlaw all guns, period, because of what they will be exposed to elsewhere.  So you’ve got to educate them with one set of rules which applies to all guns.  


children-video-game-21From the beginning of the 1800’s and through the 1970’s you rarely heard of accidental shootings with children.  Why?  Because the combination of gun usage and children was a necessary and integral way of life for a significant portion of our youth during that time.  Children had to regularly learn to shoot on their farms, for hunting, in sporting events, and yes, even to defend themselves.  Don’t you recall the abundance of “children” that attempted to enlist during the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and even World War I?  It was also custom at the time that when a boy turned 4 years old, he was taught how to shoot rabbits to put food on the table.  Additionally, children were not exposed to the kind of “entertainment” and pervasive television like they are now either.  Guns weren’t vilified during these years as they are now.  Think about it.  Our nation lasted over a century without this prevalent kind of problem in our midst.  Why is that?  Because guns had their proper, respected place in society.   


I wholeheartedly encourage parents to teach their children about guns, consistently, and to be sure that their rules apply to ALL kinds of guns.  This will ensure your safety and that of your children in many more ways than one.


Copyright 2009 Kellene Bishop. All rights reserved.

You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Kellene Bishop.  


26 Responses

  1. […] Original post by Kellene […]

  2. […] Part 4 — What’s Really Responsible for the Deaths of Our Nation’s Children? […]

  3. An excellent series my dear.

    Take a bow.

  4. Thank you CG. Thank you very much.

  5. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve seen on this site so far, and I think I understand the point you are trying to make here…I feel that I must respectfully disagree.

    There is nothing wrong with having “toy” guns around children as long as it is done in the proper context and with proper instruction.

    I grew up in a rural home with many guns and in an area where pretty much everyone owned guns for various purposes. In the era I was raised I doubt that trigger locks or safes ever even occurred to our parents. The guns were in an open gun rack in my parents bedroom. Ammunition was stored in the bottom of a closet and a 12 gauge shotgun was kept behind the bedroom door fully loaded and ready to go at all times.

    The only “accidental” shootings I ever remember hearing about were hunting accidents and those were exceedingly rare and I never had direct knowledge of anyone involved in one. In fact, I can only think of two specific ones off hand and they both involved city folk who had come out to our area to hunt…not locals.

    Our parents never discouraged us from playing “cowboys and indians” or “army” or playing with squirt guns or other toy guns in the way they were intended.

    We even had wooden (not foam) swords that I and my brothers regularly beat each other up with…resulting in stitches on more than one occasion. Back then, minor injuries were considered a part of the growing up experience.,..not something to be avoided at all cost.

    If we didn’t have “toy” guns available, we’d use fingers, sticks, pieces of matchbox car race tracks, whatever would suffice as a makeshift gun.

    This didn’t make us more dangerous around real guns because we were taught the difference between toys and play and real weapons and responsible use. That’s the key…education, not isolation. We had no need to “play” with the guns in Dad’s bedroom because if we wanted to see them or take them out to shoot (after we got old enough) all we had to do is ask. There was no “curiosity” involved and we, from the youngest age, were very aware of the difference between playing and the real thing.

    I laud your message and appreciate your point, but I think you go a little overboard in advocating a total ban on toys that look like guns. Granted, in an urban or suburban environment and the current climate of people reacting hysterically whenever they see anything that looks like it might possibly be related to something similar to a firearm, some common sense and supervision must be applied, but to vilify toys because some parents don’t properly educate their children is a bit over the top in my humble opinion.

    • You have perfectly sane points. Unfortunately, when it comes to gun safety, the lowest common denominator needs to be addressed, and unfortunately that means being careful for all possible situations. When you grew up, you did not have the same movies and entertainment glorifying the use of guns like we do today. (And no, that doesn’t make you ancient in any way) Different times call for different actions, unfortunately. What if one of your child’s freinds sees him playing with a realistic looking gun–even joins in, of course. But that same friend is not taught the safety rules of real guns by his own parents. As a result, because of the toys he played with in your home and a message of safety which is NOT reinforced in his own, he could make a deadly mistake elsewhere. That’s the real ripple effect.
      Fingers, sticks, and such do not resemble real guns. They are easily differentiated.

  6. Hi Kellene,
    Good finale to a good series.
    Our children also will not have toy guns, but there is no mystique. My three year old already knows he can’t shoot at people, and makes sure his field of fire is clear before he “shoots” ducks or rabbits with a stick.
    Education is the key
    De-mystify and there will be no problems.
    Of course, we are a little different. We don’t have a TV. I got rid of mine a year before I met my wife, and when we met she hadn’t had one for three years.
    We live in a village of about 160 people, very rural with a lot of young kids around, so they have plenty to do, and never complain of boredom.
    Fortunately, this means they also miss the advertising for crap that passes as food.

  7. […] Whats Really Responsible for the Deaths of Our Nations Children? […]

  8. When I was growing up, in the early 1960s, I saw Lawrence of Arabia blow up trains, massacre Turks, shoot, misbehaving tribesmen, and get tortured. I saw John Wayne killing Nips, Nazis and Injuns with everything from six-shooters to fighter planes. I spent Saturday afternoons watching monsters being dispatched by citizens and armies with everything from wooden stakes to nukes.

    The difference in entertainment today is that predatory violence is often glorified, rather than the protective violence of my youthful big screen and small screen entertainment.

    Teach your kids the difference in the types of violence and you will have armed them mentally against much that is dysfunctional in today’s society, as well as making them safe for playing cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, martians and earthlings, and all the other normal games of childhood. One purpose of those games is to allow the kids to distinguish between antisocial evildoers and the protectors of society.

    Teach them, then watch them play. I bet they will choose to defend society rather than destroy it.

  9. I have to agree on the toy guns thing perhaps with the caveat of not allowing realistic guns specifically. I let my 3 year old play with Nerf guns because they are huge, chuncky bright yellow and orange things that you load with foam darts that would not be easily confused with a real gun, but when my brother wanted to let my son shoot his airsoft guns I had to decline because they look almost exactly like a real gun especially to a kid. My son isn’t quite ready for the firearms safety discussion as he can’t even be bothered to pay close enough attention to not run into walls or to not pour his drink down his front. Once he is, then we’ll have that discussion, and then we may get some more realistic ‘toys’ like airsoft or a BB gun but only to use for illustration of the safety discussion and for target practice in the back yard.

  10. You Adam, I have to agree with you here, in terms of using guns that in no way represent “killing” of someone else. Projecting something at someone else, perhaps, but I’m not certain that I can rely on children not to have as rationale of a thought process. I confess that I saw a big chunky blue and orange water gun the other day and I know that I would have to have fun with those with my kids. I’ve discovered that between 3 and 4 is usually an appropriate time to at least start teaching the avoidance gun safety rules, just FYI.

  11. […] Women of Caliber, is a female gun blogger who has a number of great posts on the matter of women with guns, and did a four part series on children & firearms  [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] […]

  12. […] Women of Caliber, is a female gun blogger who has a figure up of giant posts on the issue of women with guns, and did a four associate oneself with series on children & firearms  [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] […]

  13. I have thoroughly enjoyed this four part series. I agree almost whole heartedly with everything you have said. I do however also differ on ‘toy guns’.
    My children have a business making and selling wooden guns. They are also fire arms users and my eldest two children own and shoot their own rifles on my rural property. One has been employed to shoot pigeons in a horse stable as they are one of the major pests and consumers of the horse feed!
    I believe there is a place for “toy guns” and I encourage “play” with guns whilst also introducing ‘gun safety’ tips and the 10 rules for gun use at the point of sale. I think children can differentiate between a ‘toy’ gun and a ‘real’ gun and I believe they are aware of the deadly consequences of gun misuse. The problem arises when parents are not taking the time to communicate with their kids what it means to have and use a gun. Thanks for the great read and excellent site!

    • I think your approach is perfectly reasonable. I’m quite conservative when it comes to kids and guns. At least that way I can’t be accused of being some over-th-top crazy gal. *grin*

  14. OK, toy guns are just a little toy that is part of every kids childhood, fine you can have your own opinion but when you tell somebody elses kids off it is none of your business and you should let them be. There is a difference between playing and actually killing someone.

    If you don’t want your kids playing with guns thats fine but don’t tell other peoples kids what to do.

  15. You are the exact reson why children love guns. If you try and take it away from them all they will do is want it more and more.

    • oh brother…to each his own.

    • I see. So when I take my child away from a burning stove top, that makes him/her want it more? When I save my child from drowning in the pool, that makes him/her want to inhale in the deep end even more? When I take away the sharp knife that he’s chasing after his sister with, that makes him want to use it that much more? Clearly you’ve missed the EDUCATION part of the article.

  16. Hahaha you are from a big city where you are sheltered from guns from the most part aren’t you? There is nothing wrong with toy guns me and my friends have been playing with plastic guns as long as we can remember. I am 17 now and we have since graduated airsoft guns and I think that it is a great way to let off steam and relax. We build forts and wear protective gear (goggles). It is a way to get all of my friends together and get out side and exercise.

  17. i agree

  18. This was a wonderful series on guns and children. You make some very valid points, and I agree with most of what you said. Unfortunately, you lost me on the last part. I respectfully disagree. I think you go very overboard with the anti-toy gun stance. My childhood spanned the ’90s and early ’00s. I watched all kinds of movies and played all kinds of video games that sported all manner of gun violence and what-not. My brother and I grew up with a horde of nerf guns, water guns, pop guns, and laser tag pistols that we’d constantly play with. We and the kids in the neighborhood quite regularly played cops and robbers, and cowboys and indians, shooting each other and playing dead. Even now, our nerf wars of childhood have evolved into the occasional paintball match.
    YET my father, being a military man, was very serious about teaching my brother and me gun safety. I learned gun safety at the age of 6, how to shoot and clean a gun at the age of 8, and, due to my father’s serious stance on the deadly power of guns, I have always taken firearms very seriously. Even as a child.
    By saying that you cannot allow your children to take “toy guns” lightly and “real guns” seriously at the same time, you vastly underestimate your children’s cognitive powers. If you can teach your child how to properly and safely use a firearm, you can also teach them the difference between toy guns and real firearms.
    If you think that parents who try to have it both ways only ever fail at raising children who are conscious of gun safety, well then… you’re essentially calling me a failure. And I assure you, I’m not. While I might take a sort of pleasure out of pelting my boyfriend’s brother with paintballs, I would NEVER aim a real gun at anyone unless they are directly posing a lethal threat to me or a loved one.

    • Yeah, I get that quite often regarding my position on the toy gun aspect. Regardless, I hope that the spirit of my caution is taken. I take the stand that I do, because it’s easier and safer to have such than to try to explain all of the ifs, ands, or buts. I’d rather be safe than sorry and so I tend to lean in that direction with most of what I do in life, whether it be how I drive to how I teach firearm safety. I don’t do guilt or regret well, so I’d just assume stay far away from instances in which I might have that–and when it comes to mistakes made by children that I influence, then I think I would beat myself up over it for too long.

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