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Mommy Blogger Comes to Terms with Her Kids Playing with Guns

Portrait of cute boy in cowboy hat holding toy guns in bedroom den

A lot of mothers out there go into conniptions if they see their precious baby with a toy gun. They have it in their minds that toy guns lead to actual gun violence. That thinking is part of the reason schools freak out at the mere representation of a gun, up to and including gun-shaped Pop-Tarts.

However, one mommy blogger has come to terms with her son wanting to play with guns.

Sarah Bregel explained her daughter's reaction to her change of heart on the issue: "She remembers how not long ago, I would’ve maybe tried to redirect either one of them if they’d been talking, playing, or even drawing guns."

Bregel wasn't always cool with toy guns. "To me, it felt wrong and dangerous to turn gun violence — a very real and serious issue, especially in America — into a game. I fiercely believe that we need common-sense gun control laws in our country," she said. "Nearly every time we flip on the news, there’s another mass shooting. How could I, in good conscience, allow that kind of play?"

Somewhere along the way, however, Bregel had a change of heart after she read Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence.

"According to the book, studies showed that in British preschools when kids were allowed to play with toy guns, their games became more aggressive in the short-term, but that they were actually more relaxed later in the day. So playing fantastical games didn’t impact kids negatively or make them more aggressive. You could even say that they got their aggression out by having the freedom to play how they chose," she recalls.

While I do wish Bregel would rethink her stance on firearms, she's right that "violent" play doesn't lead to violent adults. Growing up, most of the kids I played with engaged in a similar kind of play, and so far as I know, none of us grew up to be violent people.

Further, play with toy guns gives parents an opportunity — one I think Bregel misses. It gives us a risk-free way to begin to teach our children about gun safety.

Growing up, my father had no issue with me having toy guns. I had plenty of them, and I never could get enough. In fact, I'd have probably been quite happy if my childhood had consisted of little more than playing with those toy guns.

However, I had rules to follow.

I couldn't point them at people unless I was going to "shoot" them. I was to keep my finger off the trigger until it was time to shoot. I was supposed to treat it like it was a real gun and was loaded. And I had to know not just what I was going to "shoot," but what was beyond it.

It wasn't until I grew up and started handling real firearms that I learned what my father had done. He'd used my toy guns as a proxy for real ones to teach the basic rules of gun safety. After all, failure to follow the rules with a toy gun will generally not lead to anyone's death, thus making the stakes far lower for a young person.

Toy weapons have always had a place in our society, and it seems like the rise of mass shootings coincides with the era of parents wanting to prevent little Timmy from even looking at a toy gun. Of course, correlation doesn't equal causation, but it's an interesting observation nonetheless.

I'm just glad Bregel now understands that denying your child a toy weapon doesn't actually accomplish much of anything.