The War on Toy Guns: Boy, Girls, and the Games They Play

Four years ago, I wrote a column on the controversy over boys and toy guns. In my column today in USA Today I return to the issue to discuss some recent research in the area.

Four years ago, I was publicly identified as a danger to children. As the doting father of four, it was a bit of a surprise, but my “outing” occurred after my boys and I built an authentic Conestoga wagon to ride in our Northern Virginia neighborhood’s “Wheel Day.” Mid-parade, an irate mother confronted me after spotting toy guns in the covered wagon — objecting to my instilling violent values in my boys. I later received an e-mail from another parent that this covered wagon was no “innocent fantasy” since I must be aware “what guns were used for in the Old West?” It turns out that my kids were apparently rehearsing the genocidal massacre of Native Americans.

Truth be known, I actually did not view the wagon as a tribute to ethnic cleansing. But the real issue was not Western fantasies or phobias. It was guns.

I let my boys play with toy guns and swords. With many parents and schools enforcing a zero-tolerance policies toward toy guns, such toys are producing an increasing divide on playgrounds and play dates.
Early this year, a 7-year-old in Oklahoma City was suspended from school for pointing his finger like a gun and shooting at a wall. He is not the first “finger-gun” suspension — part of zero-tolerance policy in schools that recently have led to the suspension of kids for everything from drawing stick figures with guns to wearing a hat with an image of an armed soldier on it. In December, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch organized an annual “bashing” of toy guns at which parents bring their children to destroy toy guns in exchange for non-violent toys such as puzzles. In January, Hawaii legislators sought, but ultimately failed, to make it a crime to sell a toy gun to anyone younger than 18. While the crackdown on toy guns has continued to grow, this debate has been remarkably detached from developmental studies and seems to be more about parents than their kids.

Toys and gender
As someone on the nature side of this debate, a new study in Current Biology magazine caught my eye. After 14 years of observing young chimpanzees in Uganda, leading researchers found that they shared the same innate preferences in toys and games as human children. Males and females were found to gravitate toward what are called “biological predilections” in toys. The researchers found that females tended to treat sticks like dolls to mimic their mothers while males used sticks as weapons. Most interesting, when Richard Wrangham of Harvard University and co-author Sonya Kahlenberg of Bates College gave juvenile monkeys sex-stereotyped human toys, the females tended to play with the dolls while the males are more apt to play with “boys’ toys,” such as trucks.

Joyce Benenson, associate professor of psychology at Emmanuel College, told Discovery News that this study reinforces her own research that “biological mechanisms (underlie) children’s toy preferences” and “suggests … a biological basis for human sex differences.”

Of course, who needs a Uganda chimp research center? I had Madie. Surrounded by brothers (now 12, 10 and 8), Madie (now 5) grew up in a house overflowing with boys and boy toys. Madie is certainly competent with every model of Nerf weapon. However, she primarily maintains a legion of dolls with enough clothes to outfit an Army division.

Psychologist and author Glen David Skoler has argued that games involving toy guns and swords most often occur as boys are transitioning from the “amoral, self-centered, and unsocialized” world of toddlers. He calls this an “intermediary level of moral functioning,” where boys experiment with “games of good guys vs. bad guys and epic struggles between good and evil.” Child psychologist Penny Holland reached the same conclusion in her book We Don’t Play with Guns Here, saying that toy gun play is often “part of … timeless themes of the struggle between good and evil.”

Potsdam vs. pirates
In truth, my kids are not obsessed with guns and show no signs of being nascent Hannibal Lecters graduating to higher and higher forms of carnage. Ironically, I grew up in a zero-tolerance household, where my mother destroyed any toy guns that she found. We became obsessed with secretly hiding squirt guns around the house like adolescent drug users.

What is astonishing to me is how detached the zero-tolerance movement is not just from research but also from reality. One Mothering magazine article advised mothers on how to respond to their boys found playing with guns or swords. The writer suggested that parents take their boys aside and “emphasize healing” and show their boys how to make “magical medicines.” The magazine also advised that parents could also “transform guns into magical wands” and “channel energy into other games.” My personal favorite, however, was that parents should stop such games and have the kids play “peacemaking” by creating “a roundtable with a mediator and write a peace accord.”

Perhaps Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could pull off the peace accord game, but I doubt that most kids would find re-enacting the Potsdam Conference of World War II to be a good substitute for a pirate war.

Toy guns are no more the cause of violence than toy kitchen sets are the cause of obesity. Hundreds of millions of men grew up with toy guns and never turned to a life of spasmodic violence. On this issue, kids seem a lot more sophisticated than their parents. They know it’s just a game.

Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

March 8, 2011

85 thoughts on “The War on Toy Guns: Boy, Girls, and the Games They Play

  1. Sometimes political correctness and purity goes WAAAAAAYYY too far. I too have seen the kinds of overreactions you describe and it leaves me scratching my head. My daughter got in trouble a couple of times because her t-shirt had a Grateful Dead logo on it. We discovered the school had a policy against pictures of skulls and/or bones. It is a freaking album cover, for Pete’s sake! And I thought everyone owned a skull of their very own, but I came to the conclusion that some school administrators and teachers left theirs at home.

    We have both guns and swords in my house. The upshot of it all is that my kids became interested in law enforcement although they went on to other professional careers. That leaves my rebel daughter, she of the Grateful Dead shirts, who now wears tiny handcuff earrings and wants to attend the Police Academy.

  2. I find the subject of gender differences fascinating. Generally, I think men understand that these differences go beyond sociological factors more than women. Each of the genders tries to fathom the other, and each gender only has themselves as a model to compare with. When it comes to gender differences, using your own gender as a model for the opposite gender is going to lead to inaccurate conclusions.

  3. I’m a proponent of an armed populace and RKBA. I think that toy guns have their place. I also think that when someone starts handling a real firearm (for me, that was single digit years) the toy guns need to go away.

    It’s a moot point for me as I won’t be a father. Vasectomy for the win. I guess you could say, my gun is shooting blanks.

  4. KV raises a good point. When or if a caregiver starts teaching a kid how to use a real firearm, then it is time to put away the toys. Kids are literal minded, and may get the two confused. Or maybe not, but who would want to take a chance on that. At any rate, when I got my first Red Ryder BB gun at the age of six, I was no longer allowed to even point a play gun at any of the other kids. My dad was a stickler on gun safety and I learned early on that a real gun was never, ever to be pointed at anyone unless I really intended to shoot them. Fortunately, that eventuality has never happened and I hope it never does.

  5. Nal,

    “I find the subject of gender differences fascinating. Generally, I think men understand that these differences go beyond sociological factors more than women.”

    Maybe you’re talking to the wrong women!

    ;)

    **********
    I played with guns when I was a kid–as did my husband. Cowboy TV shows and movies were popular when we were growing up. Yet, we’re two adult people who would never own guns–and we’re also anti-war.

  6. “Kids are literal minded, and may get the two confused. Or maybe not, but who would want to take a chance on that….”

    There is, of course, one best way to prevent any possibility of this kind of tragedy. It is a far better and far safer solution for everyone in both the short term and long term. And it would prevent a very large percentage of all gun deaths from ever happening.

  7. As far as I can tell, most gun deaths of young people happen in the pursuit of criminal activity. Or occur due to medications given to children to modify behaviours.

    I wish someone would start worrying about the psychoactive drugs that are being given to children vs playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians or earth men and aliens. Those drugs are far more destructive than a kid with a cap gun.

    There is nothing wrong with firearms, they are just a tool, an inanimate object.

  8. KV

    Never touch a gun. Never let anyone you love touch a gun. Never let anyone you’ve ever met ever touch a gun. Never let anyone you’ve never met ever touch a gun. If no one ever touches guns, no one dies from guns. Unless one somehow thinks a bullet is a good thing, nothing good ever came from the barrel of a gun. Nothing. Not ever.

  9. From University of Michigan Health System
    http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/guns.htm

    Gun Safety for Kids and Youth
    What are the statistics about young people and firearm deaths and injuries?

    The 2002 edition of Injury Facts from the National Safety Council reports the following statistics [1] :

    • In 1999, 3,385 children and youth ages 0-19 years were killed with a gun. This includes homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries.

    • This is equivalent to about 9 deaths per day, a figure commonly used by journalists.

    • The 3,385 firearms-related deaths for age group 0-19 years breaks down to:
    o 214 unintentional
    o 1,078 suicides
    o 1,990 homicides
    o 83 for which the intent could not be determined
    o 20 due to legal intervention

    • Of the total firearms-related deaths:
    o 73 were of children under five years old
    o 416 were children 5-14 years old
    o 2,896 were 15-19 years old

    In addition to firearm deaths, we need to look at how many children and young people are hurt by guns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 1997, 2,514 children aged 0-14 were non-fatally injured by guns. In the same year, 30,225 young people aged 15-24 sustained nonfatal firearm injuries. These statistics include suicide attempts and both intentional and accidental shootings [2].

    According to the CDC, the rate of firearm deaths among children under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. American children are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die in a firearm accident than children in these other countries [3].
    What do we know about kids and gun accidents and suicides?

    When researchers studied the 30,000 accidental gun deaths of Americans of all ages that occurred between 1979-1997, they found that preschoolers aged 0-4 were 17 times more likely to die from a gun accident in the 4 states with the most guns versus the 4 states with the least guns. Likewise, school kids aged 5-14 were over 13 times more at risk of accidental firearm death in the states with high gun ownership rates. The findings indicate that gun availability is associated with accidental death by shooting [4].

    Most guns involved in self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries (that is, in suicides and accidents) came either from the victim’s home or the home of a friend or relative [5].

    Where and how safely do families with kids store their guns?
    More than a third (35%) of homes with children—that’s 22 million children ages 18 and under in more than 11 million homes—had at least one firearm, found researchers in a RAND-UCLA study [6]. But only 39% of these families keep their firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 43% of these U.S. homes with children and guns reported keeping one or more firearms in an unlocked place and without a trigger lock. Nine percent keep their guns loaded as well as unlocked. This analysis is based on data from 1994 interviews conducted in tens of thousands of households by the National Center for Health Statistics. (See Guns in the Family: Firearm Storage Patterns in U.S. Homes with Children for a fuller report.)

    **********

    From
    National Education Association
    Health Information Network
    http://www.neahin.org/programs/schoolsafety/gunsafety/statistics.htm

    CHILDREN AND GUN VIOLENCE
    • America is losing too many children to gun violence. Between 1979 and 2001, gunfire killed 90,000 children and teens in America. (Children’s Defense Fund and National Center for Health Statistics)
    • In one year, more children and teens died from gunfire than from cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, and HIV/AIDS combined. (Children’s Defense Fund)
    • The rate of firearm deaths among kids under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
    AMERICA AND GUN VIOLENCE
    • Every day, more than 80 Americans die from gun violence. (Coalition to Stop Gun Violence)
    • The rate of firearm deaths among kids under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
    • American kids are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die from a firearm accident than children in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (Centers for Disease Control)

  10. My grandfather was born in a sod-house in the Oklahoma Territory after his parents took part in the land-run. He hunted for food with a gun until one season, after his 65th birthday, he was almost shot twice. “Too many amateurs out there,” he said when he came home early. He sold his guns and that was that.

    Based on my grandfather’s actual experiences, I would tell your neighbor that an authentic Conestoga wagon is not complete without guns. No guns … no food. No food … dead homesteaders.

    I learned to hunt with a bow and arrow. I never used a gun, but then my family wasn’t depending on my kill for dinner.

    My brothers and I both had toy guns … I objected strenuously because they had two six shooters where as my “Dale Evan’s” outfit was a single six shooter. Why did the boys get 2 and I only got 1? My parents never gave me an explanation I found acceptable. We all had Davy Crockett rifles.

    There is a huge difference today … notice Sheriff Woody from Toy Story … his holster is empty.

    I would correct R. Pennington in that most gun deaths of children are accidental shootings in the home. I could go get the statistics again but I’ve quoted them many times … anybody can go look them up … use Google.

    I support strict gun-control … I do not support banning of all guns.

    As to children playing with toy guns … that’s up to individual parents and absolutely none of my business one way or another.

  11. R. Pennington brings up a very good point:

    “I wish someone would start worrying about the psychoactive drugs that are being given to children vs playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians or earth men and aliens. Those drugs are far more destructive than a kid with a cap gun.”

    Today’s kids are far too medicated. Sadly, many parents and doctors see an active 5 year-old and immediately think, “ADHD” or some other syndrome and completely ignore that many kids are just … being kids.

    My daughter’s kindergarten teacher was concerned because my daughter wasn’t “focused” and suggested her father and I have her tested for ADHD and a whole host of other “ailments.” While my ex bought into the hype, I did not but humored the two of them knowing full well that my daughter was just being a kid. Lo and behold, she wasn’t anywhere near the spectrum. Gee, how shocked was I …

    KV also brings up a good point, as echoed by OS:

    “I also think that when someone starts handling a real firearm (for me, that was single digit years) the toy guns need to go away.”

    While I am not a proponent of everyone and their mother owning a gun, the above statement is just good old-fashioned common sense.

  12. Blouise,

    “I learned to hunt with a bow and arrow.”

    You Amazon, you! And a humorous one at that! :D

  13. Elaine,
    Great links to the statistics of gun deaths and children. I have to admit that I hate guns of all types. I have never owned a gun and never will. My wife and I tried to not purchase any toy guns for our son or our 3 daughters when they were young, but my son would use ketchup bottles in the grocery as a gun and shoot the bad guys! Of course, he went on to be a Marine. I do not think we need guns for any self defense purposes and if you are not hunting, I see only trouble coming from them. I am in favor of strong restrictions on guns, but I do not believe in getting rid of all of them.
    The kids are going to play with toy guns even if they have to make their own. Common sense is a rare commodity these days and Professor Turley found that out with his neighbors complaints from the parade. But these same neighbors are on school boards deciding that pointing a finger at a wall and pretending to shoot the wall are dangerous things and must be controlled or the world will explode. Common sense needs to control the day, but I don’t think common sense is winning the battle.

  14. rafflaw,

    When my husband was young, he lost one of his good neighborhood friends. His friend was shot accidentally by his brother who was playing with a gun that was kept in their house.

  15. Give em Guns and Knives…. They need to learn the respect and usefulness of both….. More people have been slain by the pen than a gun….. (this is attributed to somebody but forgot who…..)

  16. Despite the objections of Republicans, tens of thousands, perhaps millions of people are alive today or lived full lives because they were wearing the seat belts mandatory in cars since the mid-80’s. They were not killed or maimed or seriously injured in car accidents they were involved in because people had the forsight to require all cars be eqipped with safety belts.

    These people did not have their lives cut short. They were able to graduate from high school and/or marry and/or have children, see their children grow and marry and have children.

    Not so for Eileen Bolha, a high school classmate of mine who died in a car crash one week before graduation in 1967. Also not so for Elaine M’s husband’s boyhood friend who died in a gun related accident. Eileen would have survived her crash had she been wearing a seat belt. Mr. M’s friend would have benefitted from the idea expressed above that no one should ever touch a gun–real or toy.

  17. I see the push to ban weapon play from boys in the same light as trying to force natural southpaws to use their right hands; both are misguided.

  18. “I wish someone would start worrying about the psychoactive drugs that are being given to children vs playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians or earth men and aliens. Those drugs are far more destructive than a kid with a cap gun.”

    R. Pennington & SL,

    I couldn’t agree more. I think the use of psychoactive drugs on children, which is based mostly on a subjective description of the behavior is very dangerous. Our public school system is set up in a terrible way, that encourages conformity of behavior and sublimation of feelings. As I learned doing child welfare cases, techers while on the whole great people, are mostly bad judges of behavioral issues.

    Then too the experts,Psychiatrists & Psychologists, they get sent to are in many instances imbued with false premises. Some kids who are considered unruly and inattentive may just be bored by the teaching methodology.

    As far as children having toy guns, most often they are objects of fantasy and play, which are very important developmentally. Left to their own devices children use play not only as a pastime but as a means to develop a social sense. I had many toy guns as a boy, many quite realistic, yet the thought of harming another person makes me cringe. I used fantasy to work out and learn to control my aggresive nature, also it was quite fun to play out stories with me as their hero.

  19. Mike S,

    ” Some kids who are considered unruly and inattentive may just be bored by the teaching methodology.”

    One of my best friend’s son is autistic, at the very low end of the spectrum. He’s four and a half and he just started speaking simple words. Because his teachers (who are, for the most part, good) are focusing on the autistism only, and not on speech, he is beginning to act out (biting his teachers and other kids) because he is bored to death. His mother has met with his teachers and explained to them repeatedly that her son has a very keen sense of awareness and understanding but is unable to verbalize. His private speech therapist has stated the same thing, yet, the teachers are convinced of the opposite.

    I’ve been with this child and he has never acted out at anyone in his presence. He is bright, he gets it, so we don’t talk to him or guide him as if he doesn’t. His mannerisms and body language convey he knows exactly what is going on around him, he is just unable to fully express himself verbally.

    Also, I agree with your last paragraph. I used to play with toy guns as a kid, but have personally developed a lack of interest in the real thing as I’ve gotten older.

  20. Mike S.,

    I think public schools vary greatly–from town to town and from state to state.

    That said, I think the present focus in education on prepping children for standardized tests and spending less class time on developing children’s problem-solving and creative abilities is going to be the cause for more children to become bored, frustrated, disengaged, and unhappy in school. I doubt I could teach children the way I used to if I were still a public school educator today.

  21. Sorry rcampbell. I completely disagree with you. I’ve over 20 firearms. I’ve grown up around firearms. I was shooting before I was 10.

    No property damage.

    Haven’t killed anyone (or maimed them for that matter.)

    Civilian owned firearms are a good thing. You want no one to touch guns? Yeah, explain to me how you’re going to pull that off, especially with an amendment enshrining a right to keep and bear arms.

    The firearm is an equalizer. A civilian without a firearm is left at the mercy of the stronger criminal, or a group of criminals, or an armed criminal (Why would a criminal turn in his guns? He’s already a criminal.)

    There are millions and millions of guns in this country. Millions of firearm owners. There are less than 100k firearm related injuries and deaths a year. That’s a damn small number.

  22. KV,

    I was with you till right about here, “The firearm is an equalizer. A civilian without a firearm is left at the mercy of the stronger criminal, or a group of criminals, or an armed criminal.” I’ve heard that line (well variations of it) several times, and quite frankly haven’t had anyone back it up with anything other than hypotheticals. A firearm isn’t a panacea against being the victim of a crime.

  23. Gyges,

    A 94 study sponsored by the DoJ (Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms) found that there are 1.5 million defensive gun uses annually.

    On the other end, the National Crime Victimization Survey in 1993 found DGUs in the 108k range.

    Either way, still more than the injuries and non suicidal deaths related to firearms.

    Here’s another example, my coworker’s:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/01/12/683055/-Gun-Used-Wisely-(or-It-does-happen-in-small-towns-too)?showAll=yes

    That’s my DKos page.

  24. I went back through my aging memory bank and looked at some old cases that I worked on personally. In that forty year history, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of child deaths that were due to gunshot. On the other hand, I have worked on many cases involving dead children. Most were beaten to death by a caregiver. In one case, the weapon was a clothes iron. In another a golf club. In still another a piece of chain. I also have seen a number of suicides in children and teens, every one of them involving hanging, although there were a number of failed suicides involving pills. I do not recall offhand any that involved a gunshot. There have been accidents. There was one recent case where a teenager found a black powder rifle and decided to shoot it. He loaded it with way too much powder, essentially turning it into a pipe bomb. It blew up, killing him.

    Most accidental child deaths I come across involve motor vehicle accidents. There are far too many of those. If you talk with first responders and ask what their worst experience on duty has been, the reply is invariably, “It is the kids,” referring to dead children who are either crushed or ejected from a vehicle.

    Rather than spending political capital on losing issues like gun control, IMHO, we need to focus on better mental health care, better enforcement of seat belt and child restraint laws, and getting impaired and unsafe drivers off the road.

  25. R. Pennington,

    Thanks for the links – I’ll pass them on to my friend.

    “Your friends child may not even be autistic.”

    She and I were talking about this very thing the day before yesterday. He does exhibit some autistic behaviors (repetitive and atypical eating behaviors, lack of verbal communication) which leads us to believe that he is at the very low end of the autism spectrum.

  26. KV,

    For future reference, I’m a bit of a skeptic. Claims require extraordinary proof, and an anecdote is not proof (although I am glad your friend wasn’t injured). You’d have been better off linking to the ’94 study. Although not much better, because I’m familiar with the study. Here’s a couple of quotes from the Research in Brief:

    “Evidence suggests that this survey and others like it overestimate the frequency with which firearms were used by private citizens to defend against criminal attack.”

    “Much debated is whether the widespread ownership of firearms deters crime or makes it more deadly—or perhaps both—but the
    DGU estimates are not informative in this regard.”

    http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/165476.pdf

    Like I said, I’ve heard this line many times, and have yet to see anything that backs it up.

  27. Gyges,

    “Evidence suggests that this survey and others like it overestimate the frequency with which firearms were used by private citizens to defend against criminal attack.”

    Of course. It was the Clinton DoJ. Do you think they wanted to recognize a high DGU number? Clinton was not a friend of the gun owner.

    “Much debated is whether the widespread ownership of firearms deters crime or makes it more deadly—or perhaps both—but the
    DGU estimates are not informative in this regard.”

    I won’t argue this point. I would say that I’d rather have the option to fight back with lethal force if needed than be at someone’s mercy.

    At this point, I’ve not seen supply side gun control help cut violent crime figures. Gun related violence is a VERY small part of violent crime (8% per FBI, 2009.) Why don’t we attack the root causes of ALL violent crime with better social safety nets, better education, jobs, legalization of marijuana….and more.

  28. KV,

    Well, if you don’t agree with the study’s findings perhaps you shouldn’t have brought it up. It makes it look like either: a)you knew what the study said and where being intentionally dishonest
    b)you didn’t know what the study said, but were claiming it supported your cause anyway.

    Neither of which is all that flattering.

  29. Gyges,

    The DGUs mentioned were 1.5 million. The fact that they did some research to find that 1.5 million number and found that they didn’t like the results doesn’t mean the results are bad.

    Do you expect a GOP controlled department to accept a study showing that global warming happens or that marriage equality really WON’T cause any damage to ‘real’ marriages? Of course not. They’re going to throw something in there saying that the results REALLY don’t match what would/will/does actually happen.

  30. Gyges,

    Two years ago two men broke into my apartment and robbed my wife and I at gun point. Prior to that night I had never owned a gun and hadn’t planned on getting one either. After many nights lying awake with my wife because we were too anxious to fall asleep, I decided to purchase a hand gun.

    Now, I have no way of knowing whether or not a gun would have prevented what happened to us that evening, but I did notice that we slept better after I purchased the gun.

    Im curious to know if you’ve ever been the victim of a violent crime?

  31. KV,

    Did you look at the evidence as to why they thought the number was high?

    “For example, in only a small fraction of rape and robbery attempts do victims use guns in self-defense. It does
    not make sense, then, that the NSPOF estimate of the number of rapes in which a woman defended herself with a gun was more than the total number of rapes estimated from NCVS”

    According to the study estimate, more people defended themselves against rape with a gun, then the total number of rapes that was estimated to happen.

    “NSPOF estimates also suggest that 130,000 criminals are wounded or killed by civilian gun defenders. That number also appears completely out of line with other, more reliable statistics on the number of gunshot cases.”

    Just because you like the numbers doesn’t mean they’re good.

  32. KV

    By contrast, I’m 62 and have never fired a gun of any sort for any reason. My father did not own guns, nor any uncles (or aunts) as far as I’m aware. Growing up in NE Ohio in the 1950’s, my brother and had toy guns, played cowboys/indians, etc., but I’ve always avoided real weapons then and now. I’ve never had a scintilla of a reason to change that view. I’ve heard the gun/criminal line before and find it quite unpersuasive mostly because neither I nor ANY individual I know, whether a gun owner or not, has ever been confronted with the extremely rare instance of direct criminality. I’d venture to say that’s probably your–and most everyone else’s–experience as well.

    Otterray

    Only a handful? Doesn’t move you though? How many dead children dead from gun accidents would it take? How many road rage victims? How many dead from domestic violence? What number of senseless deaths would make you give a damn about the victims?

  33. I would think martial vigor in defense of yourself and your principles is a virtue to be instilled and nurtured. It always was in the past. Playing with toy guns is a about as dangerous as playing with toy cars.

  34. ‘I think public schools vary greatly–from town to town and from state to state.”

    Elaine,

    It’s not the teachers that give us a screwed up school system, it is the “stuck in the box” theories and the depredations of politics.

  35. Chris,

    I have a sleeping disorder. Every so often (the frequency depends on a few factors), I wake up unable to move. The majority of the time that this happens, something horrible is happening right outside my field of vision. Alien abductions, the rape and murder of my wife, that sort of thing.

    Well that’s what I experience anyway, what actually happens is that my wiring is a little mixed up, and sometimes my system doesn’t boot up in the right order. It’s called Sleep paralysis.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_paralysis#Symptoms_and_characteristics

    Now, what does any of that have to do with gun ownership? Well, it goes a long way toward explaining why I distrust anecdotes, and why I’m going to just say “my having experienced a violent crime in no way effects the validity of my position.” Reality in no way hinges on what has or hasn’t happened to you or me. There are always outliers, and feeling more secure doesn’t mean you are more secure.

    If KV is right, and guns are the great equalizer, there will be data that proves it. Lord knows, there have been enough studies. All I’m asking is that he provides some. So far, he’s misrepresented one study (and then when he got called on it says “oh well it doesn’t matter anyway), and told me a story about something that happened to his friend.

  36. I’ve stated many times that I do believe that the people have the right to bear arms, even though I’ve never owned a gun and/or rifle, except for a Daisy. However, those who feel it gives them protection from attack are perhaps too optimistic in their belief.

    The problem with having a gun and being confronted with a criminal is that of drawing it in the first place. Sure you can learn to quick draw, even from a shoulder holster, but then you run the risk of shooting someone who intended no harm. If you don’t draw quickly, however, you may find yourself looking down a seemingly huge barrel, as happened to me one day trying to prevent a subway mugging of an old man. Now you can get around this scenario by walking around with your gun in your hand, but I doubt that’s a good solution.

    Now in the home invasion situation it is a different matter.
    However, there to many people are confronted while asleep in bed,
    so the gun under the pillow might not help. While it may help one to feel better, it probably won’t save yo in too many instances. For me, not owning a weapon doesn’t mean that I have gone over in my minds ways to protect myself indifferent scenarios, I’m far too paranoid to not have done and keep doing it. I just think the gun would protect me very much and I know from target experience I’m a pretty good shot. There are other, safer ways, but if having one around gives you peace more power to you, but perhaps you should explore why are so afraid. I spent many years walking alone in some of the highest crime areas of NYC and except for that subway incident, in a gentrified area, I’ve never had to use any self defense.

  37. Gyges,
    I was in now way invalidating your opinion, just that it might be different had you been a victim of a violent crime. I’ve had a lot of experience with guns of all sort being that I was in the Marine Corps, but I never saw the need to own one until the indecent I described above.

    I stated that I didn’t know whether a gun would have prevented what happened, and as traumatic as it was, in the end I am grateful that nothing worse happened to my wife. Even though the guns presence may not change anything, it does make my wife and I feel more safe.

  38. As a conservative I am rather shocked, pleasantly I might add, that those here are not screaming to high heaven about the evil of guns.

    It seems that you have a fairly similar belief as to how the 2nd amendment should be interpreted. I have only read 1 or 2 posters who would not be in line with what me and my friends say when we get together and the subject comes up.

    Seems like the NRA and groups like the Brady’s have a financial gain in keeping the rhetoric hot and heavy. I will say some of our more vocal proponents (on the conservative side) are bat shit crazy on this subject. I think grenade launchers and 50 cal. machine guns and sniper rifles belong in the hands of the military. Although blasting an unsuspecting pumpkin or watermelon with a 50 cal. is fun but rather expensive-$3-5$ per round. So we only cul the heard, we don’t wipe them out.

  39. Stamford Liberal
    1, March 8, 2011 at 10:03 am
    Blouise,

    “I learned to hunt with a bow and arrow.”

    You Amazon, you! And a humorous one at that! :)

    ===================================================

    I’m a pretty good tracker too and I sure as hell don’t go stompin’ through the forest.

    Maybe I should run for office ….

  40. Blouise,

    “I’m a pretty good tracker too and I sure as hell don’t go stompin’ through the forest.

    Maybe I should run for office ….”

    Lol . . . A woman of many talents – excellent!

    National office? I’d work on your campaign!

  41. rcampbell sez: “What number of senseless deaths would make you give a damn about the victims?”

    *********************************

    Pretty damn presumptuous there, Sport. You do not have a clue as to what I care about and what I don’t care about. I just spent the afternoon today in a small concrete room with a fellow covered with tattoos. You do not really want to know what he is charged with. I have seen more dead bodies than you can imagine. Nope, you do not have any idea what it means to me to see the body of somebody who was living only a short time ago. I just know that such a tiny percentage of them are due to firearms that it is tilting at windmills to try to enact gun control legislation. That kind of legislation is going to go nowhere. We have a Second Amendment that has been vetted by the SCOTUS as to what it mean to ordinary citizens and any serious attempt to confiscate guns would be found unconstitutional . If we want to elect effective congresscritters, the worst thing they can do is run on a gun control platform. Guaranteed loser. Fix the things we actually CAN fix.

    And I repeat. Please do not inform me what I give a damn about.

  42. rafflaw
    1, March 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm
    Blouise,
    You are much too important in Ohio to run for National office!

    ============================================================

    I have three useless degrees, 1 speeding ticket (in my 20’s or 30’s – can’t remember), never did any drugs, drink moderately, and never had an extramarital affair. I’ve never been charged with a crime and I own 23 black velvet dresses.

    I’m a shoe-in. However, I will only do it if you agree to be my Press Secy. … and therein lies the problem … I say what I think and I favor the word, asshole … as in The Republican Speaker of the House is an asshole. Your job would be a nightmare.

    Plus, my husband gets mad if there are more than 4 pieces of silverware at his place-setting removing all additional pieces and putting them in the middle of the table.

    Nah, it wouldn’t work.

  43. Blouise, This is the bumper sticker “I own 23 black velvet dresses” and the 1st plank in your platform “No more than 4 utensils for any place-setting”. :-)

    You can win this thing, I’d vote for you in a heartbeat!

  44. Chris: sorry about those sleepless nights, given your admission about Marine Corps service, I won’t give any admonishments about taking the time to do the training, and not just purchasing a gun as a talisman against evil. For others however, it’s a point to be heeded.

    Mike S.:
    I worked greater NYC for over a decade, in a variety of roles.
    One night I provided some disincentive to two large fellows when getting on the subway in the vicinity of the South Street Seaport. I and the lady looked to be alone, fairly well dressed, and it was going on 10 pm. Quiet time. Just a slip from the pocket, a nod in their direction, some nods in my direction, two tokens later we were through the turnstile and everybody went about their business.
    I’d say that was a “defensive gun use” as I didn’t get jumped by 400 combined pounds of manhood.

    A couple of years earlier, we had some ruckus as Central and South Americans cut – literally – into what had been a largely American black and Jamaican drug trade. One fellow stabbed a Jamaican repeatedly in the abdomen, but a patrol car happened by, interrupted and gave foot pursuit after assessing injury.
    EMS (me that night) arrived, we scooped and moved as the street was ugly with some unhappy people, normally unfriendly towards non-purchasing whites and all cops on good days.

    Parked a block away with the back doors open so we could have three EMS people simultaneously work on the victim, we were joined (unannounced) by the assailant with his knife in his hand.
    Having leapt in between the medic applying anti-shock trousers
    and the door jamb, he lunged forward onto our patient.

    Somehow, don’t ask me for precision, I went from intubation to pushing a fellow medic left onto the bench seat, to firing a Walther PPK .380 into the assailant’s head at contact distance, with the knife inches from my face.
    I think he was either going to stab me, or cut/stab the Jamaican fellow in the neck.
    One shot. Dead.
    The Jamaican fellow would die a couple of hours later of severe internal trauma. Stabbed three times with a left-right repeated motion, his major arteries were cut in multiple places.

    I’d rate that a defensive gun use. I was asked repeatedly, and the crew asked repeatedly to explain how I went from intubation to firing a gun in a couple of seconds at best.
    I can’t tell you. I knew the situation was bad, I was phoned, paged and radio called from dinner… and I could hear the cop on the scene. Amped up on adrenaline is my only excuse.

    Mr. Turley:
    I will, unequivocally say that playing with a cap gun had less than zero to do with either incident.
    I’m old enough to say that all 25 cent water pistols leaked upon purchase, or failed to squirt by end of day.
    I predate Nerf and SuperSoakers by decades.

    I’ll also say that perhaps being raised in an environment of guns didn’t hurt, though until employed, I had never been afforded access to handguns. Adult friends owned them, but they “weren’t for kids”.

    Rifle and shotgun experience would have to do, and it more than sufficed as when I was alone at home one day (age 13) we had an attempted push-in. My dog detained the unhappy fellow, who threatened to “kill him” if I didn’t open the door and call off the dog. Sam gave me the moment to reach for an (unloaded) Winchester lever action. A .25-20 model ’92, it looked cowboy, and wouldn’t have felt good getting hit with it, but it was a small game to marginal deer caliber.
    He – the fellow, felt that was good-enough, and didn’t pause to ask if it was loaded. The “snick=snack” of working the lever was good-enough.

    Sam got a dog biscuit, and went back to digging a cool spot in the pachysandra. My mother, devout pacifist, had a blue shit fit. My father, after an earful called the town cops.
    A Patrolman (friend of the family) and the oldest of the Detectives arrived 20 to 30 minutes later. Questions were asked. Description given: white, late 20s to 30, polyester leisure suit, claimed to be the vacuum repairman. The cops admitted that this fellow, in the VW combi (bus) had been doing this sort of thing for about 2 months.
    Perhaps an enquiry about dog bite victims would help determine who it was. The Detective said as he was leaving: “Shoot the bastard next time… save me the extra trouble of catching him.” That was over 4 decades ago, and the world consisted of whatever was written down, became the truth.
    Shot in our driveway may have read shot in the kitchen.
    Luckily, I didn’t have to find out.

    Defensive gun use? I’d give credit to the Sam the dog.

    He prevented the push-in, I merely provided the emphatic.
    Mom required dad to lock-up all the guns after that, and she gave the Detective a dirty look at every opportunity.

    I got scripture: “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

  45. Hey Blouise…or should I say Madam President.. Is Buddha going to be the Secretary of War or State….either I am sure could and would become interchangeable… You would rename it to the Department of War would you not…we have not won any battles since it was termed the DoD…that was when they unified all of the branches under one command…sorta…You tell that to the CIA…Oh that’s right you feel the need that you are going to get shot…question…whats the difference between being shot and assassinated…. Your wardrobe issue is easy…You have 23 Velvet dresses….Cut the days down in each month to 23 take the rest and add it to the end of your term and let the next guy figure out what to do with them…

  46. rafflaw
    1, March 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm
    Blouse,
    As your press secretary, I concur that public office is not a good idea!

    ===============================================

    No first term means no second term. Now what in the hell am I going to do with all this Koch money?

  47. AY,

    You are Atty General and everybody else on the Cabinet is female … you’re welcome

    Buddha will be Ambassador to every where … gotta keep him out of the country ….

  48. Gyges:

    “If KV is right, and guns are the great equalizer, there will be data that proves it. Lord knows, there have been enough studies. All I’m asking is that he provides some. So far, he’s misrepresented one study (and then when he got called on it says “oh well it doesn’t matter anyway), and told me a story about something that happened to his friend.”

    That study was from 94. Last time I checked, ALL of the gun studies have been partisan in some respect. You have the idiots at Mayors against Illegal Guns and the Brady Bunch at one end with the idiots at the GOA and the NRA at the other end of the spectrum.

    But let me go back and respond to your two quotes that I missed earlier:

    “For example, in only a small fraction of rape and robbery attempts do victims use guns in self-defense. It does
    not make sense, then, that the NSPOF estimate of the number of rapes in which a woman defended herself with a gun was more than the total number of rapes estimated from NCVS”

    First of all, how do they know this? Secondly, if you’re being attacked and defend yourself with a firearm, it’s a DGU. You might think it was rape when it wasn’t. It could’ve been something else. Who knows? All the person knows is that he/she defended him/herself AND they thought it would’ve led to rape if they hadn’t.

    “NSPOF estimates also suggest that 130,000 criminals are wounded or killed by civilian gun defenders. That number also appears completely out of line with other, more reliable statistics on the number of gunshot cases.”

    Entirely possible. Reported firearm related deaths and injuries are under 100k in the year of 2009.

    Here’s an interesting section that shows the problem with the NCVS numbers:

    The key explanation for the difference between the
    108,000 NCVS estimate for the annual number of DGUs
    and the several million from the surveys discussed
    earlier is that NCVS avoids the false-positive
    problem by limiting DGU questions to persons who
    first reported that they were crime victims. Most
    NCVS respondents never have a chance to answer the
    DGU question, falsely or otherwise.

    If you’ll notice in my anecdote, my coworker did not report the guy coming at him and his drawing of the firearm. The crime went unreported. How often do you think this happens? Secondly, NCVS asked about the location BEFORE they asked about defending yourself with a firearm. Back in 1994, the concealed carry laws were not as liberal as they are now. How many people didn’t mention they used a firearm because they didn’t want to tell a government official about it? They “might” have been breaking the law, depending on the location.

  49. Any parent who has both daughters and sons can tell you that they are very different. Boys are wired for conflict. Girls are wired for cooperation. Why this is suddenly news I don’t know, but trying to get boys to act like girls is counter-productive.

    As far as this whole gun control debate goes, when someone shows me that removing guns from a society improves public safety, I’ll change my mind about it. Note I’m not talking about “gun violence” because I don’t consider violence committed with a gun any more horrifying that violence committed with any other weapon. This is where the Brady Bunch, and the VPC have lost the debate. They seem to believe that if you could remove the tool, the violence wouldn’t happen. This is demonstrably false as you can see from the drop in gun violence in the UK after their near-total ban on guns and self-defense, yet their violent crime rate has done nothing but climb. We see the same in Australia.

    An dead woman who was unamred is not morally superior to one who is alive because she killed the man who was going to rape her. In my view I’d much rather the woman be alive and the person who committed the crime was dead.

  50. Its interesting how toy guns are quickly taken to the stage of real guns. And at the same time the toy gun is combined to statistics of killed children.

    This is like taking a go cart to the danger of high speed car driving. Its two different topics. But yeah as a gun looks like a gun and the one makes bang and the other too throw it all together.

    While army is protecting you country and who would complain a policeman arresting a criminal as well with a gun.

    Yeah, all the children with a toy gun are little criminals too, isn’t it?

    Seems like kids can see the difference between toys an reality much better than some grown ups.

    Guns are not only offensive weapons, they are as well protection. Keeping kids from toy guns is like denying the realty.

  51. UPBill,

    If you are correct…then you have not met my sister…. If you want verification that you are incorrect I’d give you here number….But then she might just kill the both of us…so its best I don’t…

  52. Blouise,

    I am curious as to why you’d want to keep me out of the country?

    Unless it is of course the obvious answer which is to resist temptation. :)

  53. Buddha…..

    I would love to be the roving ambassador….but no….I have to be surround by a kitchen cabinet full of females…. Maybe, you should have the opportunity……I hear Jefferson did a bang up job being ambassador….Thank goodness the medical treatments are much more readily available…

  54. Totally in agreement with you here. I have one boy and one girl; anyone who tells me that it is access to the toy gun that brings out carnal instincts obviously doesn’t have children — or at least one boy.

  55. When I was about five, my favorite toy was a little black “Rambo” gun (that I now know looked like a 1911 .45) that when you pulled the trigger, it would pull back the hammer and make plastic snapping sound. It was my favorite toy, but my mother did not approve. After some kid got shot in LA for pointing a toy gun at a cop (something I was taught never to do was point my toy guns at people) she said “No more war toys!” and she took away any toys which looked like they bore a resemblance to any toy weapons, a considerable number, as you can well imagine. I was the only kid I knew who didn’t have ANY GI Joes.

    When I was Eight, I found my Rambo gun hidden in a vase on top of the entertainment center (which I daringly climbed like a mountain climber, searching for the lost city of Machu Picchu) and I proceeded to play with it. I was soon caught with it, and in retaliation, she smashed it into a million pieces in front of me. My response? I didn’t speak to her for two weeks. She took me to a doctor because she thought I had gone mute. I soon started stealing her cigarette lighters in retaliation. I amassed a large coffee can full of lighters and buried it in the back yard.

    Well, fast forward a few years. After serving in the US Marines including a tour of duty in Iraq, I got out of the Corps, and got a job working for a gun company. I’m now in school full time and will hopefully be able to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering, so that I can become a firearms designer. But I’m sure that these smash-ins will totally work.

    P.S. Check out my user name!

  56. “I was 5 and he was 6
    We rode on horses made of sticks
    He wore black and I wore white
    He would always win the fight

    Bang bang, you shot me down.
    Bang bang, I hit the ground.
    Bang bang,that awful sound.
    Bang bang, my baby shot me down.”

  57. ” I’ve been with this child and he has never acted out at anyone in his presence. He is bright, he gets it, so we don’t talk to him or guide him as if he doesn’t. His mannerisms and body language convey he knows exactly what is going on around him, he is just unable to fully express himself verbally ”
    ….Stamford Liberal

    Kudos to your friend. My son was diagnosed at the age of 4 with ” Moderate Functioning ” Autism…..at 5 with ” PDD-NOS ” and finally at 5 1/2 with ” Aspergers Syndrome “. The battles that I fought at the Elementary School level with many teachers and Administrators, who qualified themselves as the experts, were unsurmoutable. I chose to treat/raise my son in exactly the same manner that I treat & raise his ” Typical ” brother. My son is now 15 years old, earning A’s in High School, and making friends.
    ….and btw, never had any inclination to play with guns, or any other ” boy ” toys.

    BIL…
    You know that Canada will always let you in :)

  58. CE,

    Keep the poutine warm and the beer cold.

    I’ll be there as fast as I can and ready to sample all of Canada’s maple-y goodness.

  59. CE,

    “Kudos to your friend. My son was diagnosed at the age of 4 with ” Moderate Functioning ” Autism…..at 5 with ” PDD-NOS ” and finally at 5 1/2 with ” Aspergers Syndrome “. The battles that I fought at the Elementary School level with many teachers and Administrators, who qualified themselves as the experts, were unsurmoutable. I chose to treat/raise my son in exactly the same manner that I treat & raise his ” Typical ” brother. My son is now 15 years old, earning A’s in High School, and making friends.”

    While I personally haven’t had to fight the teachers, my friend as told me about the battles she has had, and continues to have. But, she is doing exactly what you have done with your son and she is beginning to see real results. He is relying less and less on sign language and is making remarkable efforts in verbalizing.

    Thank you for sharing, and I’m glad your son has progressed as well as he has – you must be so proud!

  60. Hey now….CE….be careful…..you don’t know what those folks in the swap waters bring….they eat Louisiana Lobsters….be careful…..or you may Rue the day….or is that Rouge the day…but in the future Roving Ambassadors case it may be Rogue….

  61. Stamford Liberal….
    I am indeed very proud, he’s a wonderful kid and while I’m somewhat biased I hear the same from all who know him. My personal belief is that your friend is on the right track. I will admit that my educational backgroud is Behavioural Psychology and I’ve worked for many years in the field of Mental Health. That being said, at the time that my son was dx’d I had never heard of Aspergers Syndrome, and pictured ” Rain Man ” when thinking of Autism, and honestly, the school system knew less than I did!
    In the past 10 years I’ve become a bit of an expert on the subject and the ” go-to ” person at work. I’ve developed and facilitate ” social skills ” groups for adults on the spectrum. Research and instinct are key, if your friend is looking for resources, Tony Attwood has a lot of great strategies, as does the Geneva Centre ( Canadian site ).
    All the best :)

  62. Hi there AY, how are things?
    BTW I love Louisiana Lobsters, although I hear they can pinch pretty hard if you don’t handle them the right way….tlc.

  63. CE,

    “if your friend is looking for resources, Tony Attwood has a lot of great strategies, as does the Geneva Centre ( Canadian site )”

    I will certainly pass this info on to her – many thanks!

    “All the best :)”

    Right back at ya :D

  64. KV,

    Hey, you’re the one who brought up the study. I guess I don’t see why you would do that if you thought it wasn’t valid. But hey, I’m fine with discounting it.

    So, what evidence do you have that your opinion is correct? If you’re left with nothing but some stories you’ve heard, that’s fine. We all have to base our opinions on something. I was just hoping you had some solid evidence to back up your claim.

  65. Why are firearms treated with such disrespect and looked down on? If you were to compare medical illness’ to deaths at the business end of a firearm there is a huge difference. more people die from disease than not using a firearm properly and I am sorry to all of you guys that think only guys have a thing for weapons. I was the only girl of 9 cousins and my dad was an avid hunter so not only do i know how to shoot but weapons are a part of who i am. I grew up knowing the difference in a toy “gun” and a real firearm. also if you disrespect a firearm enough to call it a “gun” you need a lesson in how to handle it and use it properly! IT IS A FIREARM! a gun is something else entirely and has nothing to do with any kind of weapon. call it by it’s name “AK 47″ or “firearm” not “gun”. If you are taught to respect “WEAPONS” in general from a young age it is not such a far stretch of the imagination to treat a firearm with respect. I had access to knives, bows (compound and long), and one 22, 2 black powders, a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge.

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