Social Question

Trillian's avatar

Does it bother you to have a child point a toy gun at you?

Asked by Trillian (21106points) September 1st, 2010

I was looking at this question and I got to thinking about what people teach their children. I’ve seen lots of little boys playing with guns and I’ve had the occasional one point his gun at me. I don’t like it and have straght up said “Don’t point that at me.” Parents are generally offended and tell me that the gun is not real. Or, “he’s just a kid. As if I don’t know that. As if a weapon in the hands of a child can do no harm.
What I object to is the unthinking intent, and the casual pointing of what is actually a weapon that can kill a person. I never allowed my kids to have toy guns and the one time someone tried to give my son a gun for a birthday I told him that my son couldn’t have it and his wife jumped all over him and said “See, I told you we shoud have asked first.” I wonder if there is a pychological disconnect that allows for such casual acceptance later in life.
Do you allow your children to point their toy guns a people? Do you teach your children to respect what a gun can do? With the commonality of video games that have gun related violence as the very basis of the game, to you think that it is a good idea to ignore this type of behaviour? Do you think they will just “grow out of it” on their own?
Just curious. I’m genrally in the minority with my views. I’d like to know how I fall out on this topic.

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43 Answers

MeinTeil's avatar

Yes, gunpoint or no.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Of course not. It is a toy, and it is a child. No harm no foul.

Seaofclouds's avatar

My son has a lot of toy guns. He likes to play cops and robbers and to pretend he is a soldier in a war. When he is playing with his friends, he is allowed to point the gun towards their bodies, but never their heads. He is not allowed to point the guns at anyone that he is not playing with. It does bother me if someone points a toy gun at me (when I’m not playing the game too).

He also has a BB gun. He knows he is not allowed to ever point it at anyone and that it is not a toy. He understands the difference between his toy guns and the real gun.

muppetish's avatar

Yes, it would bother me. Would I chastise the child or ridicule his or her parents? No.

Now if the child is showing signs of aggression and not imaginative play, that’s a whole different story.

Seek's avatar

My son doesn’t have toy guns, but that’s mostly because he’s shown no interest in them. He had a small, fleeting interest with toy swords, but he was more interested in turning them into a microphone or a baseball bat than fighting.

I am grateful that he just doesn’t have a desire toward violent toys and games, so I don’t have to make that judgement call for him – at least not yet.

I’m not a fan of guns, but I do think that if the kids are going to be around them at some point (and in the American South, that’s nearly guaranteed to happen), I think the best course of action is to teach the child to treat a toy gun exactly the same as a real one: assume it’s loaded, and don’t point it at anything you don’t want to kill.

Water pistols, perhaps, might be treated differently. Something about the neon colours and the see-through quality, I don’t know.

SuperMouse's avatar

Yes it bothers me. My boys do have toy guns (though I swore up and down they never would their father – my ex – and my mother-in-law vetoed me and continually bought them guns), (mostly Nerf guns) they play with them, and they are never – without exception allowed to point them at me. When they point a weapon of any kind at me, any other adult, or anyone else who is not part of their game, the weapon is taken away. There are very few things for which I have zero tolerance – this is one of them.

Scooby's avatar

Don’t bother me, I say let kids be kids…. My nephew has toys guns & I use my fingers to shoot back at him when he’s on a mission… now if a teenager pointed a gun at me, I would think it out of malice as he should be old enough to know better, but a kid of say three to ten , nahhh!! They’re just kids, no harm done….
I had guns when I was a kid, I have guns to this day & have always been around them, so long as there’s a responsible adult around to keep an eye on kids antics when they’re at play no probs .. It’s when they become teenagers that problems can start if they haven’t been taught to be responsible as kids.. IMO :-/

Seek's avatar

@Scooby

I’m confused. Are we supposed to teach our kids to be responsible, or “let kids be kids”. If we let them “be kids”, at what point are they supposed to learn to “know better” as teenagers?

ucme's avatar

Nope!! Then coming from England the gun culture is…..well, almost non existent.

kenmc's avatar

No, but we were always taught as children to never do it. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’d guess that since my family is a hunting family, we’d want to instill a habit of not pointing guns at people.

Scooby's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr

I guess that would be up to the parents to decide, after all as parents they have that responsibilit, it’s their call…. My nephew is eight years old, he knows the difference between a water pistol & a fully pumped 22 rifle….

TexasDude's avatar

I think there has been a huge cultural shift in regards to this question. Allow me to explain…

My grandfather and even my dad grew up playing with toy guns and bb guns (while simultaneously owning and using real guns) and nobody was ever hurt, killed, or arrested.

Even when I was growing up, I played with toy guns all the time and took up airsoft when I was a teenager. (airsoft is a sport where you use often fully automatic, ultra realistic, military style pellet guns which are actually very safe to shoot at your friends in the woods). By the time I was 19, I had amassed a modest collection of real firearms and I haven’t and don’t plan on shooting anyone.

So what then, is the issue?

The issue is, in fact, safety and responsibility. We worry about kids pointing toy guns at us and growing up to not know the difference between reality and fantasy, but why? My dad and grandfather’s generation pointed toy guns at each other all the time. They had real guns that they knew how to use. A very tiny percentage of that generation, compared to modern kids, grew up to be crazed rampage killers.

I think the difference is that kids aren’t taught gun safety anymore, nor responsibility in general, thus causing issues that simply used to not exist.

The real fear when you see a kid pointing a toy gun at you is that they will one day pick up a real one and do the same thing and hurt you or someone else, right? Why didn’t I ever kill anyone after receiving my super deadly soldier training playing airsoft and then buying real guns even so called “assault weapons” on my own?

Because I (and my parent’s and grandparent’s generations) were taught proper gun safety etiquette and handling and taught from a very early age the difference between safe and fun play and the use of dangerous tools.

I also think that the attitude that children should have zero exposure to guns at all has unintended consequences. Part of the mystique of guns, for kids, is that they are mysterious and taboo, in many households. If they accidentally find one, they are more likely to pick it up and play with it and wind up hurting someone. That wouldn’t happen if they had been exposed to them in a safe, controlled, and educational environment.

To answer the question a bit more directly… If and when I ever have kids, I am going to do exactly what my parents did for me: teach them gun safety from a very early age. They will know that you do not touch daddy’s guns unless he is present and they will learn the 4 rules of gun safety as well. They will be allowed to play with toy guns at a later age, and play video games, but I will hopefully not failed so incredibly hard as a parent that they don’t know the difference between that and the real deal.

Also, if they show no interest in guns, I’m not going to push the issue. They will know safety, they will no responsibility, and they will not be stupid.

TexasDude's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard, woops, I meant “they will know responsibility…

@Scooby, thanks a lot!

Trillian's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard GA. One reason I did not allow my son to have a gun toy or otherwise, was that I had never the time or knowledge to take him to a range and be properly instructed. I knew that I did not want him pointing a weapon at people but not how to instill respect for a weapon. So, he can learn as an adult, as he chooses. Fortunately, he was never interested in guns.
But your point about responsibility in general is well taken. Far too many people allow their children complete license with no boundaries at all. And their excuse is that “They’re just kids.” Well, kids do as they’re taught. Anytime you see a child acting out in a store, it is learned behaviour. Anytime you see a child minding his/her manners, that is learned beaviour as well.
The result of children growing up with no boundaries can be clearly seen in the court system today. And their parents are still trying to make it so they don’t have any negative consequences for their actions.
What a shame.
Thanks for the well thought out and well articulated answer.

TexasDude's avatar

@Trillian thank you kindly. I completely agree about kids. I think that too many parents these days aren’t stepping up to the plate and instilling their children with a value system, if anything at all.

CMaz's avatar

Yes. Respect for anything starts at a young age.

Austinlad's avatar

Man, I find this a tough question—partly because I’ve never been a parent. On one hand, I say, yes, it bothers me when a kid points a gun at me. Not because I’m afraid of toy guns or that I think he’s doomed to be a criminal; I just think it’s an mini-aggressive act that should be discouraged. Plus, some people might indeed react badly, a guy who just got back from combat, for example. On the other hand, kids need and deserve to play and pretend. Never mind that when I was a kid we mostly used a cocked index finger instead of a store-bought plastic Uzzi.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I think @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard put it better than I ever could.

It doesn’t bother me to have one of my younger cousins point a toy gun at me and make a noise that is supposed to sound like a gun. Even at their young ages (8 and 6) I have seen the compassion they have for animals and people and so I have no reason to believe that, just because they point the odd toy gun at me, they will grow up to be maniacs. Often, making something taboo (toy guns, alcohol, sex etc) just makes it more attractive and so it is more important (in my opinion) to teach right from wrong (ie: this is a toy and can’t harm someone when it is pointed at them. The real thing, however, can kill. Don’t get the two confused! – Obviously that was simplifying the message but you get the point.) than to say “this is bad and could lead to x, y or z so you can’t do it”. I also find that a lot of kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

charliecompany34's avatar

yes, it does.
me, being in law enforcement, we dont dig anything being pointed at us, toy gun or not. these days, you dont know what’s real and what’s fake.

what children need to learn is that guns are not toys. point a fake gun/real gun/whatever at the wrong person at the wrong time and a life can be lost over “we was just playn.”

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Yes. It’s the general thing in my family that kids don’t play with toy guns. Gun are serious tools, even a BB gun will inflict damage and so is to be handled with care and never pointed at a person. Not that kids don’t do as they can when no one looks but at least they know it’s not approved and the reasons why.

Seek's avatar

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Guns are not toys. One should never point a gun at anything unless they want to kill it.

Girl mistakes real gun for Wii controller, kills herself

Cops mistake toy gun for real gun, scare the shit out of a retarded 18 year old boy

Source for below:

On June 22, 2007, in West Memphis, Arkansas, a 12-year-old boy, De Aunta Farrow, was shot and killed by a Memphis police officer because he was holding a toy gun in his hand, and the police officer said it looked real.

On March 22, 2007, in Little Rock, Arkansas, a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by a police officer. The child’s silver toy gun was mistaken by the police for a real handgun.

On February 24, 2007, in Brooklyn, New York, Sean ”Light” Anderson, a 27-year-old, caused a real gun fight, when getting into a car with what appeared to be an AK-47 machine gun. The cops fired several shots, but miraculously nobody was struck. Turned out, the gun was a fake. A shocked witness said: “[The cops] running and shooting down the block where there could have been innocent bystanders.”

On November 26, 2006, in St. Louis, Missouri, police shot and wounded a 13-year-old boy in the hip, leg, and arm because officers said that the boy reached into his waist band, and pointed a toy revolver, which looked authentic, at them.

On July 25, 2006, in Ontario, California, a 15-year-old boy was shot and wounded when he pulled out and pointed, what appeared to be a .44-caliber magnum handgun, at some people. The gun turned out to be an Airsoft replica toy gun, which shoots rubber or plastic pellets

On May 1, 2006, in West Valley City, Utah, a 10-year-old boy, a fourth-grade elementary school student, was suspended and booked into a juvenile detention facility for taking a plastic pellet-firing Airsoft pistol to school, and for shooting at least 13 classmates.

On January 19, 2006, in Valley Glen, California, a fourth-grader was shot in the chest while at recess at Kittredge Street Elementary School, by a plastic pellet fired by an Airsoft pistol, shot by a 16-year old in an apartment across from school.

On January 13, 2006, in Longwood, Florida, a 15-year-old, Christopher Penley, who was an eighth grader, was shot and killed by police officers for brandishing a pellet gun that closely resembled to a 9 mm at Milwee Middle School. The pellet toy gun had been painted to appear to be a real firearm.

On February 8, 2005, in Olympia, Washington (Thurston County), Daniel Cootsa accidently shot his 19-year-old friend, David Nelson, in the head, mistaking it for a replica pellet gun. The bullet passed through his skull. Although he survived, he lost sight in one eye, and hearing in one ear, among other serious injuries. The gun was given to their friend’s sister for protection! Daniel was sentenced and jailed later.

In February of 2004, a 14-year-old boy in Lakewood, California, was shot and wounded after Sheriff’s Deputies mistakenly thought an Airsoft pellet handgun in the boy’s waistband was real.

On August 19, 2002, in New Haven, Connecticut, Edgar Ayala, a 9-year-old boy, was shot and killed by his 10-year-old friend, with a .38-caliber revolver, and a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson, belonging to his 26-year-old stepfather. The boy said he thought the gun was a fake gun. His mother said that after the shooting, his son burst into the bedroom yelling, “Mommy, I didn’t mean it” and” I thought it was fake, Mommy, I am sorry,” over and over again.

In 2002, in Whitmore Lake, Michigan, Tommy Davis, a 7-year-old boy, faced three counts of felony assault charges for pointing a toy gun at three other youngsters and threatening to shoot them.

On November 6, 2000, in Portland, Oregon, a 3-year-old boy shot his 25-year old father, Jonathan Davis Christian, when he mistook his father’s loaded .38-caliber revolver for a toy gun. His father left it on the kitchen table just for a few seconds while he went to go get the key to lock the gun’s trigger.

On November 10, 1999, in Monterey Park, California, a 13-year-old boy was shot twice on his upper left arm by an undercover cop because the boy had a toy gun resembling a real gun.

On September 6, 1998, in Fort Myers, Florida, a 12-year-old boy, Ronald L. Harris, was arrested for pointing a toy gun at a man while demanding money.

On August 23, 1998, Michael Jones, a 16-year old boy, was shot 17 times and critically wounded by two police officers in Brooklyn, New York while riding a bicycle because he had a water gun that looked like a 9mm MP5 submachine gun.

On August 6, 1998, in Pacoima, California, 23-year old Issac Alvarez was killed by his own gun when a 4-year old neighbor picked up the loaded rifle hidden under a bed and shot him in the back of his head. Police said the boy had stated that he thought it was a toy gun. Police said, “Toy rifles are out there. They play with toy rifles all the time. They are just like real guns.”

On June 1, 1998, in Gardena, California, a 9-year old girl found a loaded handgun mounted underneath a desk in a woman’s office. While playing with it, she shot and killed her 6-year old sister when she aimed it at her chest. She said she believed “it was a toy.” The two sisters were brought to the business by their mother’s boyfriend, who works there.

On April 3, 1998, a third grade boy took and displayed a small loaded antique 70-year-old real gun at Queen’s Elementary School. The Principal delayed notifying the police because he thought it was a toy gun, and did not think it could have created a real disaster.

Air guns are considered toys, but they have caused injuries and deaths, especially in boys 10 to 14 years old. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, University of Cincinnati School of Medicine, Cincinnati, and Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri (published in “Pediatrics,” the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Oct. 1997) reported that of 101 children hospitalized for air gun injuries, three died, fifteen were blinded permanently, twenty five suffered permanent visual loss, and half of those 101 needed surgery.

On November 4, 1995, in National City (South of San Diego), California, Johnny Angel Navarrete, an 18-year-old boy, was shot in front of his house after an argument with several youths. When he pulled a replica gun (a cigarette lighter) from his waistband that looked like a real gun, another youth pulled out his real gun, and shot him thinking the lighter was genuine. Johnny died two days later.

On Memorial Day, May 29, 1995, in Carson Park, California, Freddy Palacio, a 12-year-old, was shot twice by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy who mistook the $2 toy gun for a .22 caliber pistol.

In October of 1994, Nicholas Heyward Jr., a 13-year-old boy and straight-A student of Brooklyn, NY, was shot in the chest and killed by a police officer when he was playing with his toy gun.

In Montgomery, Alabama, a 7-year-old boy was shot by his own 9-year-old brother while playing with the gun they found in the glove compartment of their dad’s car. The boy died, even though this happened in a hospital parking lot.

In 1993, in Las Vegas, Nevada, a 3-year-old girl found her father’s loaded revolver. Thinking it was a toy, she aimed, shot, and killed her pregnant mother who was asleep on the sofa. The mother died on the way to the hospital.

In 1991, a 3-year-old boy, in Northern California, was shot and killed by his grandfather while playing, mistakenly using his real gun, instead of his grandson’s toy gun.

Studies show that most children younger than eight can not reliably distinguish a toy gun from a real gun.

In 1983, a 5-year-old boy was shot and killed at his home, by an Orange County Police Officer because he was holding a toy gun.

ipso's avatar

I heard this by Sarah Vowell on NPR quite some time ago.

It’s a great little story. Brilliant writing, that gal.

majorrich's avatar

Since my child was very wee, he has been exposed to firearms (unloaded) and I rigorously tought safety to him with regard to all projectile weapons. We verify toy guns with the blaze tip are actually toys and everything. He cleans all the weapons after a day at the range and is a pretty good shot. Guns had no mystery to him (and he didn’t have the keys to the safe) so there was no adolecent urge to show the armory off. He has just turned 18 and I feel he is a responsible adult enough to work on NRA Competition rockers. We are earning them together.

On the other hand. We have had a few scares at the range where we dove for cover with other people who weren’t as careful where the muzzle of their weapon is pointed. I am aware that some kids overpaint their orange muzzles black and thugs that paint their weapons so they look like airsoft. Police must treat everything that looks like a gun as a gun until proven otherwise. I would, if on duty defend myself if an airsoft weapon were pointed at me. Thankfully I am retired and dont have to make that call as they are getting so much more realistic.

Trillian's avatar

@Seek Kolinahr thank you for that research.
@ipso That was hilarious!

SundayKittens's avatar

Yep.
Good answers, all.

The main thing that bothers me is that the reason most kids know what it is and how to “shoot” it is from seeing violent stuff on tv, and that’s not the way to introduce kids to that kind of stuff. They’re mimicking violence with something that represents a deadly weapon.

I’m not uptight, usually I can dismiss stuff as kids being kids, but mannnnnn not this. Too many things like what @seek kolinhar cited happen.

ESPECIALLY young kids who don’t grasp the concept of firearm safety and responsibility. It’s what they see the guys on tv doing. Not good.

Scooby's avatar

Unfortunately there are some very irresponsible adults who own guns & some very trigger happy law enforcement officers it would seem..
If a kid is introduced to firearms it’s up to the parent / guardian to asses his / her competence, ultimately the sole responsibility is the parents … if you have an irresponsible parent, then things are going to go wrong at some point :-/
Unfortunately it’s this incompetent minority that gives us responsible gun owners bad press & it’s this which is making our sport harder & harder to maintain, especially here in the UK.. :-/

majorrich's avatar

I was watching a neighbor kid aiming a revolver cowboy gun at his indian prey cocked 90 degrees ‘gangsta style’. Images of a Gangsta Cowboy sent me into hysterical laughter. (get off horse, pull pants down, rotate hat etc.. lol) TV is indeed a very poor trainer for firearms handling.

CMaz's avatar

There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. The financial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Billion dollars. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States—one death every 13 minutes.

majorrich's avatar

lefties never concede the accidents per million stat. They either turn and run, or get personal.

Trillian's avatar

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who answered me on this thread. I don’t understnd the point that @ChazMaz was making, or the last statement by @majorrich, but for the most part I understand all the other answers.
Thank you all!

Seek's avatar

@ChazMaz

A car has a purpose other than making things dead. Name one thing that a gun does other than kill things, or make people think they may soon become dead.

TexasDude's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr, aren’t you really into swords?

Seek's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Why, yes, I am. However, since I now have a small child in the house, all of my display weapons have been buried away in a safe place, until he is of such an age that he can learn to use them himself. Perhaps ten or so. I am very secure in knowing that a sword cannot “accidentally” explode and kill someone 30 feet away from it.

Scooby's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr

I will answer if I may, sorry Chaz…I have been target shooting & shooting clay’s for almost thirty four years & in those thirty four years I have never witnessed a single aggressive act with a pistol, rifle, shotgun, crossbow or bow for that matter… when you have a group of highly responsible people partaking in a heavily regulated sport at any event you can be 99.9 % sure that no intentional injury would befall you from any number of competitors on the ranges, you may however be very, very unlucky & be stung by a fluke ricochet, which has been known on several occasions on the target field, the markers being the unintended backstops, but still very, very rare…. I can guarantee that you would not have to fear for your life, but again I’m talking about the UK & regulated events…
Unfortunately yes there are unbalanced, incompetent people out there who do commit murders, who do commit robberies, who do make people fear for their lives..with the use of legal & illegal guns, I hope they are the minority. If I ever came across one of these people who then began threatening my life or that of any of my friends, I would hope above all hope that the first policeman on the scene was a trained marksman capable of doing his job. Not all our policemen in the UK carry weapons, you at least have that luxury…..Guns protect the innocent too.
Not always having to be discharged….. :-/

Seek's avatar

@Scooby

I am not opposed to guns in a controlled, child-free environment such as a shooting range.

CMaz's avatar

A car and a gun do the same thing.

Allow you to live. Comfortable and safe.
Freedom is not free. Neither is driving to work.

When used responsibly they are both “safe”.

SundayKittens's avatar

Neither are safe or responsible in the hands of a child.

SuperMouse's avatar

@ChazMaz I have never owned a firearm in my entire life and I live comfortably and safely. The sole purpose of a car is not to hurt people; the cars to guns comparison is apples to oranges. Please don’t read my answer as a staunch anti-gun stance, I just believe there must be a better comparison on which to base your argument.

TexasDude's avatar

sigh… before we all do this again, I’d encourage everyone to go here and pay careful attention to how this exact same argument has very recently panned out

majorrich's avatar

I have about a dozen firearms and except for one all they have ever done is punch holes in paper. The one got a raccoon or two that were eating all the birdseed out of the feeder. (a 30 pound boar I might add for you hunters) When I was in the service I killed a man at close range and have been haunted by it ever since. Because of the way I was raised to treasure life it tore a hole in my soal that will never heal. That is why I am so vigilant about training and responsibility of firearms ownership. I sincerely hope all I ever have to shoot again is paper, but if need be I have done it before, and protecting my family being my responsibility, I could do it again.
In the meantime I hope to pass what skills I have to my son, who is a pretty good shot. He is a better shot than I was when I was his age.
Ownership of firearms under the 2nd amendment springs from the citizen soldier, who might be pressed into duty if needed. It is unclear to me if Colonial men and boys trained, but they certainly practiced with their firearms for food and defense.
Under common law. Every male between the ages of 16(?) and 60 are technically members of the citizen militia and could be pressed to service ergo the well regulated militia thing. And it gives the citizens the power to put down a Government if it becomes overly oppressive.

palerider's avatar

Yes it concerns me. As an avid gun lover (and owner), you must have respect for the weapon, even if it is a toy, and especially if it launches any type of projectile. All people should go through some sort of weapon-handling training.

palerider's avatar

@majorrich hoo-rah! great answer, thanks for your service and your sacrifice.

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