Children, guns, toys and imaginative play

There is an article recently posted on the internet which raises the issue of children role-playing with guns. It entitled

Superhero play, gun and weapon play

The argument is that playing with guns is part of the child’s imaginative play and that

When children are shooting each other as part of their play they don’t actually believe they are hurting each other – they know they get up after being shot. 

Well, here are some examples of when they didn’t

Boy, 2, accidentally shoots and kills mother in US Walmart

Toddler, 3, shoots father and pregnant mother at New Mexico hotel

New Mexico toddler shoots both parents with one bullet after finding gun

Opinion is deeply divided on whether young children should be given guns to play with. On one side there is the argument that introducing children to guns at an early age predisposes them to using them later in life and that this is, per say, bad.

On the other side  is the idea that it’s only play, it’s part of natural development particularly for boys who are, by nature, hunters and gatherers, and it doesn’t have a lasting influence anyhow.

In the article that I have cited, the argument for gun play and creative imagination is developed in a subtle but ultimately misleading way.

It goes like this: It’s okay to dress your children up in superhero clothing because superheroes save the world, conquer evil  and fight on the side of the angels. Just like the guys with guns do.

So dressing your kid up as Superman or Batman is exactly the same as giving him an imitation AK-47 to play with.

The difficulty with this idea is that tomorrow your kid will wake up and won’t be dressed up as Superman and won’t be able to fly but there is a chance that he will pick up a real AK-47 and may not be able to distinguish between his toy and the real thing.

It is also important to consider the environment in which the child lives. If a child lives in gun-free environment and plays cowboys and indians , cops and robbers or goodies and baddies, then the chances of him committing carnage are greatly reduced.  If, on the other hand, he lives in a home where there are guns, then the risks are greatly heightened.

 A group of children engaged in innocent gunplay
A group of children engaged in innocent gunplay

So, if we consider the question of the environment: What is going on in this photograph? It looks like a scenario in which there will be no winners, not today,  not tomorrow, not ever.

And what parents heart must not ache this sight:

Her  first toy
Her first toy

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