The Great (Toy) Gun Debate

There are some things that you are forced to become more aware of, working as an anchor and reporter in television news for 13 years.

Take, for example, the daily political talking points, or the latest health news, or the weather. About all of these points, most television journalists could intelligently banter.

I could tell you the neighborhoods a serial arsonist was plaguing, the house where the latest armed robbery was, the daycare where the “accused” pervert was working before he was just arrested.

You would think, then, after spending countless hours literally reading, out loud, these daily incidents, one would be aware enough to avoid what has become a major issue in schools, on playgrounds, and in just about every other public sphere these day–the Toy Gun.

Here is where I confess. I am the Bad Parent who knowingly sent her kid to school with a plastic gun.

Grade-A Idiocy, my friends.

Let me back up a bit to tell you how this all happened. It was my son’s Show and Tell day for the letter “G.” I, in my typical tornadic state of morning affairs—oatmeal crusting on bowls, Peppa Pig blaring in the background, me chasing the kids down to get them dressed—realized that I forgot to grab something for my little guy that began with the letter “G.” After taking a cursory glance around the family room, my eyes fell on a Captain America gun. I grabbed it and ran into the garage, where the kids were already waiting in the car.

Fast forward fifteen minutes, to the Edvard Munch-level look of shock on the teacher’s face when I nonchalantly handed it off to her.

“Sorry we’re late! This is Sammy’s show and tell item for today!”

Um. No it’s not, crazy lady.

She didn’t actually say that, bless her patient heart, but she would have been completely in bounds if she did.

How in the WORLD could I not know this? How could I have read, what, literally TEN DOZEN stories over the years about kids getting in trouble—or worse—for doing exactly what I was doing?

Mike Tyson couldn’t have slapped sense into me any quicker in than I came to realize, in that moment, my own massive foible.

I apologized—profusely—and from what I recall, my dear boy skipped show and tell that day.

The truth is, my husband and I didn’t even buy our son his first toy gun, or even this little red ditty that I so casually brandished in a 3-year-old classroom. His first toy gun was a Christmas present from a family member, one to which my husband and I heartily opposed. But as it happened, in the frenzy of Christmas Eve present opening, we actually didn’t even know he had gotten it until long after he tore off the wrapping paper and began playing with it.

In the year since then, we have relented to his interest in toy guns, and gotten him a few Nerf guns at his request. Cue the Stereotype Brigade: This little boy–not at our urging our behest–just seems to love his toy guns.

The truth is, I don’t know what to make of this great toy gun debate. I know parents who fall on both sides—the Give-Them-the-Damn-Toy-Gun-You-Overly-PC-Loonie people, and the You-Horrible-Barbaric-People-Get-Those-Things-Away-From-Him people.

I’m not on either side firmly, I suppose. And given my family’s own mixed history with guns, it’s understandable why. My dad was the only non-hunter in the entire extended family, but my grandfather—whose house my 20 family members and I ate at every Sunday night—left a loaded shotgun in the corner of the dining room that we walked past dozens of time each week. Let’s just say I get both sides.

And yet, every time I see my son aim his Nerf gun at something (we teach him that—loaded or not—he can only point the Nerf gun at things), I still hear a faint voice in my head asking me, “Are you sure he should be playing with that?”

Like many things in parenting that I’m realizing, Who the hell knows? But I do wonder, when did toys stop being anything but just that?

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I’d love to hear how you parents deal with this toy gun issue. Is it a thing in your house? Do you think we’re overthinking it by even wondering? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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