Progressive Writers Bloc

Buy a Gun for your Son?

Bill Warner

"So buy a gun for your son right away, Sir. Shake his hand like a man and let him play, Sir. Let his little mind expand, place a weapon in his hand, for the skills he learns today will some day pay, Sir."

These words are from a Tom Paxton song back during the dark, bloody days when we were trying to save Vietnam from Vietnamese. Do kids learn violence by playing with toys of violence, or is "blasting Granny" just a healthy way to release pent-up feelings of hostility?

There is evidence that being raised on a diet of violence begets violence, and many studies have found a that children who watch violence on TV, be it cartoon superheroes or horror movies, tend to get into trouble a lot more than the kids who don't. We may not be able to control TV and movies as much as we'd like to, but we can control a kid's violent toy supply. Buying a kid an "action" figure, violent video game, or even boxing gloves puts the parental seal of approval on the behavior which that item embodies.

When I was a kid during World War II, which was billed as another of those wars to end all wars, we had a steady diet of trigger-pulling fun. We had cap guns, pop guns, rubber-band guns, squirt guns, BB guns, 22 rifles, and other assorted play weaponry from cardboard machine guns to model fighter planes. In the movies, 99% of the problems faced by the "Good Guys" were solved by using weapons. In our play with toy weapons, it was always "bang! bang! You're dead!" Was it any surprise that I ran out and joined the Marines as soon as I was old enough? "Bang! Bang! You're REALLY dead!"

I once saw a bumper sticker that said "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Later, I saw another that said, "Guns don't kill people, people WITH guns kill people." One wonders whether the kids killed at Columbine HS by disgruntled classmates would still be alive if our culture did not glorify violence and make killing an acceptable way to solve problems.

Parents can also discourage friends and relatives from giving their children toys of violence. TVs can be tuned to nature shows instead of "superhero" cartoons. Adults can preview and control what kids watch. Parents can discuss the issue. The argument, "If I don't let them play with war toys at home, they'll just do it elsewhere", is about as stupid as saying, "If I don 't let them do crack cocaine at home, they'll just do it elsewhere." It is time to rethink how we relate to other human beings, and teach our children non-violent conflict resolution and how to treat others with respect. As parents, we need to seriously consider the effect the toys we give our children may have on them. The lyrics in Tom Paxton's song may be a bit sarcastic, but those of the song "Let Peace Begin With Me" are not.

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