Toy Guns: Just Fun and Games?

by Alvin Poussaint, M.D. and Susan Linn, Ed.D.

Learn what our experts have to say about toy guns and safety.

In This Article:

A long history

Are We Steering Our Sons Towards Violence? The shelves are stocked with weapons of every kind: handguns, rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, and sci-fi light sabers. Are you in the exhibit hall of an NRA convention? No. You're strolling down the aisles of a toy store in search of a birthday present for your six-year-old son.

Buying toy guns for kids seems completely natural to millions of American parents. Yet, the same parents would not even think about buying guns for their little girls. When we encourage boys to play with guns, we must question whether or not we're socializing them to be violent.

As American As Apple Pie
Playing cops-and-robbers or other "shoot the bad guy" games is often seen as innocent fun and a harmless rite of passage for little boys across America. It is certainly part of an American image of manhood -- success at violence is often equated with heroics, making men appear tough and macho. In fact, guns and other tools of destruction have long been associated symbolically with male sexual prowess.

American history -- especially the story of European immigrants settling the West -- is rife with mythology about gunfights and gunslingers. Thanks to films and television, we all grew up with larger-than-life (and largely false) visions of gun-toting law enforcers like Wyatt Earp and glamorous villains like Billy the Kid. These days, the enemy might be an alien space creature. The weapon of destruction may be more sophisticated than the old six-shooter, but the game is basically the same: Bang! Bang! You're dead!

In spite of peer pressure and TV marketing, and at the risk of disappointing your children, we strongly urge parents not to buy toy guns.

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