Water guns should not be played with. At all. Period. End of story.
Such is the reasoning of Lauren Levy, a contributor to the website PopSugar, who wrote an editorial arguing that toy guns, in particular water guns, send mixed messages to young children with regards to gun safety.
“These ‘toys’ are also sending mixed messages and diluting the most important ones: guns are no joke. Guns aren’t innocent, even if they are ‘harmless’ and in plastic form,” wrote Levy.
“These are weapons that can end lives, and as much as we want to teach our kids about gun control and safety, we contradict ourselves the second we allow them to run around with toy versions to shoot their friends,” she continued.
What’s interesting is that Levy made an exception for “water squirters,” those long tubular devices that suck up water with the pull of the handle, she writes, “We still had all of the same Summer fun, but with water squirters that didn’t look like deadly weapons and never trivialized this important topic.”
Hmmm. Levy’s carve out is an interesting one because at the end of the day whether it’s with a water gun or with a water squirter the result is the same: a child is shooting his or her friend with water. By her own insane logic, couldn’t I argue that the mere notion of “shooting” someone with anything is abhorrent as it predisposes a child to violent and aggressive behavior? Couldn’t I?
I could. But that way of thinking is, as mentioned, insane. The problem is not that we send mixed messages to our kids, the problem is that we see a problem with sending mixed messages. Life is full of mixed messages, contradictions and WTF moments. It is, particularly when one is growing up.
Here’s an obvious mixed message for a youngster as it relates to firearms. Levy writes,“ A gun is a serious and powerful object that can permanently destroy lives.” Which is true, but what do you tell a child who asks, “Well, if they’re so dangerous, why does dad have a safe full of them? Why does he keep one in a biometric safe next to his bed? Why does dad even need these tools of death?”
The early stages of a child’s life is a thorny labyrinth of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Whether the subject is bed time, using foul language, eating green beans, handling firearms, etc. children are bombarded with instruction that runs contrary to the behavior they witness in the older folks around them. This is unavoidable. Instead of trying to shelter children from the complexity of life we ought to encourage them to inquire about it early and often because that’s what leads to personal growth and maturity.
Listen, I’m not saying we throw a loaded wheel gun at six-year-old and say, “Figure it out, kiddo.” What I am saying is that we respond to a child’s questions about the contradictions of early life not with rigid dogma, “All guns are evil, all guns are evil, all guns are evil,” but with the truth: This is good behavior and that is bad behavior. This appropriate and that is inappropriate. This is a water toy and that is a lethal weapon.
Fact: children are inherently curious. They are eager to taste all the forbidden fruits. That’s why when it comes to the most dangerous forbidden fruit, firearms, the best thing to do is to slake that curiosity. Don’t shield them from firearms, educate them about firearms. Bring them to the range, teach them the rules of gun safety, allow them to shoot a firearm under parental supervision. In short order they’ll understand the difference between the power of a real gun and that of a water gun and any message as it relates to the two will no longer be mixed.