Play Guns and a Loss of Innocence

So I like to think that I’m pretty easy going with things. My parenting style is pretty moderate and at least to this point, I haven’t gone overboard with censorship.  But the other day I took Brogan to the doctors and I was deeply disturbed.  We were in the waiting room and my attention turned out the window to a child, probably 8 or 9, with a play handgun.  While this gun did have one of those bright orange tips, it was very realistic in every other regard.  I’m not sure what this kid had been watching, but he held the gun correctly, pointed it at just about everything and went through the motions of firing it. Over and over again.  I have to be honest as I watched this boy it took me to the frightening thoughts of a school shooting because in this child’s intense make-believe, he had malice in his eyes. It was just eerie.

Play gun

So this boy, his mom and his younger brother all walked into the doctor’s office and sat a few chairs down from us in the waiting room.  The younger brother also came equipped with a gun, however his was much less realistic and bright green.  The boys were exchanging fire, running through the waiting room screaming, “Bang, bang, you’re dead!” and falling lifeless to the floor.  All the while, Brogan was just mesmerized by it all, watching every move they made.  He was obviously interested in the older boy’s “shooter” (as Brogan likes to call it).  I think the boy could sense Brogan’s interest and asked, “Would you like to play with my gun?” Of course Brogan said yes, and I interjected, “Oh, no, we’re fine. Thank you though.” And the boy insisted.  And I again politely declined.  And Brogan, who really wanted to play with the shooter, walked up to him with his hands outstretched and before I could physically stop him, the boy very sweetly handing my son the gun.  He looked at me and said, “It’s okay, he can play with it.”  Dilemma.  Was I overreacting?  This boy who I had originally pegged as evil, was actually very mild-mannered and willing to share.  I was wrestling with the social norms of judging this mom or making her feel bad by saying something like “my son doesn’t play with guns.”  Luckily, only moments after Brogan was handed the gun, we were saved by the nurse calling our name. Of all our doctor visits, I was very thankful that this was a record-setting short waiting room stay.  While it was only moments, it was plenty of time for Brogan to bounce around the room showing off his newfound knack for shooting things dead.  Bang, bang, dead.  [Sigh]  We returned the gun, thanked the boy for sharing and walked toward the nurse.  But ever since then I have this sinking feeling that some part of his innocence was lost.  I’m not even sure that before this he had connected that what he called a “shooter” is a gun and that guns kill people.  He has made the connection now.  When we got in the car he told me that he wanted a shooter, just like that boy’s, so he could shoot things dead, to which I told him that we like shooters that are cool bright colors, like the Nerf shooters he has at home and we don’t like to make things “dead”.

So I’m still unsettled on this one.  In general, I’m not opposed to guns.  But I have to tell you that all the recent shootings have me pretty sensitive to them (especially where kids are concerned).  Sure, kids used to play cowboys and Indians.  Sure, I remember my brothers having play guns and it was no big deal.  So I don’t know why this little boy with the (very real-looking) play gun rattled me so much.  But it did.  I have this fear now that if Brogan came across a real gun in someone’s home that he would instantly want to grab it and “shoot” it and that scares me to death.  I know I need to educate him about guns so he knows to never, never touch one (and then I suppose I explain that if it has a bright orange plastic piece on the tip, that’s okay) but I also recognized that he’s three and he doesn’t like to listen.

I guess this is just one of those parenting things that I wasn’t quite ready to face.

4 thoughts on “Play Guns and a Loss of Innocence

  1. You’re not overreacting. Three-year-olds shouldn’t even know what a gun is (I realize the case can be made that there’s a difference if you’re talking about hunting, though personally I find that abhorrent, too). Basically you and your son were violated by a parent who has allowed her children to be abused by a violent and gun-crazy society. I would be furious if it had happened to my children.
    -Amy at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com

  2. Yikes! Do you think that he understands the concept of killing and death? He probably just wanted to imitate the two boys. Keep us posted on how this plays out, especially because with video games, it seems like this comes all too early.

    • I’m not quite sure if he really gets it. He knows that when people die they go to heaven, but who knows if a three-year-old can truly process that guns kill, or what it means when he’s running around the house saying he’s going to kill you. When I tell him that we don’t say things like that, he assures me that he’s only talking about fake kill, not real kill, so who knows. I just wasn’t ready for all that!

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