The only guns in our house are my bulging biceps.

I hate guns. I really, really hate guns. I can accept the fact that officers of the law have to have guns, and I'm okay with hunting rifles if they are used only for legal hunting. (Hunting is necessary. I don't think I ever want to do it, but it doesn't bother me that other people hunt.) But as far as I'm concerned, the world has no use for handguns or automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Their sole use is murder, and I am absolutely NOT okay with that.

I get very upset when I hear things like this morning's NPR report on the NRA convention and how sales of guns and ammo have skyrocketed since Barack Obama was elected. People think they need these killing machines to protect themselves. Somehow they feel safer knowing they can annihilate another person or dozen with the flick of a finger. I think easy access to guns and automatic weapons is a huge problem (Columbine, anyone?)

I am a gun-hating liberal, and nothing will change how I feel about this issue.

But there is one little thing.

Yesterday my neighbor asked how I feel about water guns because there is the distinct possibility that her son - Daniel's best friend - may receive one from his grandpa this summer and she wanted to know if I would be okay with the two boys playing with such a thing together.*

I actually remember playing with squirt guns as a kid and loving it. Summers in Kentucky can be near unbearable with all the heat and humidity. We didn't have central air conditioning, so we kept cool by going to the public pool, running through the sprinkler in the back yard, and squirting each other with water guns. (As I recall, there was also a fair amount of sitting in front of the fan and whining about how hot and bored we were.) Now, generally I would forbid any sort of game where one kid pretends to be shooting another. Because it's SHOOTING and that is WRONG. But spraying each other with water is genuinely fun and to my knowledge there just aren't squirt toys out there that aren't shaped like guns. Please correct me if I'm wrong about this and direct me to a place where I might find such a thing. That would solve my problem immediately!

Our neighbors are very conscientious parents and considerate people, which is why they would think to ask us before introducing Daniel to water guns. I really appreciate that. And I actually said I would be okay with it, mostly because I remember playing with them as a kid. Stuart isn't so sure.

The thing is, I know that (with boys especially) shooting games are pretty much inevitable, but I do think there is a difference between having a toy gun and pretending another object - like a stick - is a gun. I'm also not a fan of micro-managing playtime. So basically, my dilemma is whether to allow the squirt guns now or wait a little while until Daniel is old enough to know the rules of playing with squirt guns, and more importantly, why we have those rules.

Most of the time, I don't like to over-analyze every aspect of parenting. You should do what feels right and hope for the best. But this gun thing is a serious issue for me because in case you hadn't picked up on this yet I am VERY ANTI-GUN, and guns are so pervasive in our culture. What do you guys think?

*ETA: Our neighbors are basically at the same place we are politically. They have the exact same concerns we do about play guns and play shooting. The issue is basically what kind of "shooting play" would happen if the two boys get together and play with water guns. I just wanted to clarify that we're not in disagreement at all. We are mutually trying to come to the best decision.


Strangeite said…
Anna and I had a similar conversation just yesterday. Riley has a foam sword and Sophie was playing with it on the coffee table. When we asked what she was doing, she told us "Fighting the monster on the bridge." For a moment we didn't know if she say something or not. In the end we decided it was best to just let her play.

As for your water gun problem, there are two solutions. One easy and one fun.

The first solution is that he can play with a household squirt bottle. It will have more force than a cheap water gun but less force than a super soaker.

The second option (and the one I like best) is to build your own water gun that isn't a gun. There are many plans online and most will produce a gun that will shoot more water than even a super soaker.

Here is a link to one type of water gun. You will note that it does not look like a gun. I made one without any plans about 10 years ago that shot over 100 feet.
Suze said…
Roy, thanks for the link, but remember that Daniel is 3. He doesn't need something that will shoot 100 feet.

We have lots of squirt toys for the bathtub, including an old dish soap bottle. I wonder if that would fly for the back yard, too? Thanks for the idea.
Caffeine Girl said…
My 19-year-old son was obsessed with guns as a preschooler. I tried to forbid them, but eventually gave up. As he got older, he was fascinated with war and ended up reading and learning a lot about history. He is now a pacifist with no interest in guns or warfare. I think that kids ultimately are most influenced by your values. In the meantime, do what feels right to you.
Strangeite said…
The beauty of building your own is that you can make it as powerful or as weak as you like. I saw a toddler at the bluegrass festival last year with a homemade water gun that was 8 inches long and his older brothers was about 1.5 feet.
Strangeite said…
Mine that shot 100 feet was more like a cannon since it was 5 feet long and stood on a tripod.
Jessi said…
Roy - Only you would build a "water cannon."

Suze - I get the concern. I feel a little more conflicted over the gun issue than you do, but blame my raisin' for that. I still don't want toy guns around because it creeps me out. I will say though that I think the water guns today look less and less like real guns. Ours really looked like brightly colored guns with stocks and barels and such. Now, they have bigger water resevoirs which make them look more like a pile of bubbles with a trigger. I have seen little water guns shaped like frogs and stuff by they are the kind we had when we were kids and if your neighbor kid is getting a big one, it won't be much fun for Daniel to be soaked and have a tiny squirt gun. Of course you can always do what my mom did and hand him the hose. Good luck and I hope you find something you can be happy with.
Claire said…
Gosh. I'm trying to imagine Ben in this same situation and the only thing that I can come up with is that a. he's never EVER seen a gun (doesn't know what one is) and b. we're still monitoring his play and can keep this water gun play simple and innocent. It SOUNDS like these neighbor friends will be on board with how they monitor this kind of play and as a supervising parent, you can (hopefully) manipulate and redirect what comes out of their mouths, if anything that has to do what real guns actually do. Did that make any sense? As far as Daniel is concerned, he doesn't know what a gun is and what he'll see is some cool contraption that is hot green and orange and will help keep him cool and have fun this summer.

But yes, I totally, TOTALLY am on board with the anti-gun thing, too. As for now, I'm going to keep in mind that Ben is COMPLETELY oblivious to what these horrible things are and as he gets older, we'll have more talks.
katie said…
there's a lot to say about this issue, but at the moment I have only this to say: even though my reaction to guns is to completely prohibit them, I have learned that at some point developmentally, complete prohibition is not helpful.

I also would never offer the option of a gun before the child discovers and wants it him/herself. we've had a little gun interest in our house, and we have always said: 1. no shooting people, even if you're "just" pretending 2. no pointing a "gun" (even if it's your finger) at anyone.

Pa, from Little House has brought the idea of guns into our house, and that's a little different (as you mentioned).
Animal said…
I agree with Katie re: "complete prohibition is not helpful." And, yes, Pa "taught" me how to use a gun, and I spent many wonderful years with a VERY realistic-looking black-powder rifle, hunting black panthers on the prairie, or shooting the Thanksgiving turkey. I guess there's a world of difference between that and the toy weapons SHAPED like assault rifles, that ratchet when you pull the trigger. *shrug* I think it's inevitable, but it's all how you come to it. Sounds to me like you're doing everything right.

And, I do feel like I've seen "soaker toys" at K-Mart and Meijer that, yes, have an opening at one end and some sort of trigger at the other…but, they don't really resemble GUNS, per se. But, you're right: these might be the 100-foot super-soakers that Daniel just isn't ready for yet. I guess if he's ready for a water pistol, he's probably ready for a lecture about what guns are, and what sort of play is and IS NOT acceptable.
canadahauntsme said…
I could post several pages on this topic, so I'll try to be brief.

1. Suze and I were raised with Mennonite parents who did allow water guns (to a point) but did not allow me to attend a friend's laser tag birthday party without a LOT of convincing.

2. As I am just one data point in a heap of roughly 200 million adult americans, I learned at a young age how to care for and respect guns. I have probably shot more types of guns than the average american, yet I will never own one.

3. I do not have children, but if I did (when I do) I would (will) raise them as my parents raised me.

4. The fact of the matter is that it's too late to completely prohibit guns; so many are in circulation that it's impractical to expect any further gun bans to have a serious affect (although I wholeheartedly agree with katie and animal).

5. As for the whole "guns protect" defense issue, I'm not sure what to think. On the one hand, guns far exceed any other weapon used in homicide in the united states (the median age of the victim by the way is 17) []. On the other, it's already too late for a ban on all firearms... *sigh*
Mrs. Allroro said…
I was going to say the same thing as Roy about the squirt bottle. And you can adjust that, too, to make it spray (almost said "shoot") with force or not. The hose is also a great idea, and you could use a nozel. I like the idea of not buying the toy water gun, just becuase you have more possibilities with the water hose and the spray bottle. Maybe I watch too much Alton Brown, but I think everything should multi-task. Or maybe it's the Montessori teacher in me who thinks you should limit your child's number of toys to allow for less limits on creativity and to help him have more control over managing his life.

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