Parenting Perspectives: Kids, Guns & Family Rules

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We’re starting a new series at Up Parenting Creek: Parenting Perspectives. We’ll pick a new topic each month and solicit opinions and advice from parents with differing takes and perspectives. Everyone has wisdom to share with other parents and each family’s situation is different, so please join in the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


Experienced parents talk about their family rules for guns (real and play) and gun safety

What’s your take on kids playing with fake/toy/finger/stick guns?

I’ve never liked it, but I came to understand it may symbolize power more than an actual gun, death and all that entails. – D. M.

We have no problem allowing our kids to have toy guns, even cap guns. I was not allowed toy guns as a child and so I used sticks/ Legos/friends’ toy guns/anything-you-can-point as a gun. My wife and I see only an aesthetic difference between those stand-ins for guns and an actual toy gun. The main difference is: toy guns are more fun. We don’t believe their presence in our home will in any way lead our children down a path of violence or desensitize them to violence. Those behaviors and attitudes don’t come from toys. – A.C.

My husband and I are pacifists. We are firm anti-gun proponents. However, we let our kids play pretend gun fights with their fingers, sticks, chewed up pieces of bread, etc. We talk to our kids about our feelings about real guns, and the difference between real guns and pretend play. – A.J.

Our girls aren’t super interested in playing gun related things, but we allow it. They prefer bows and arrows ala Katniss. – J.E.

We’ve discouraged playing with guns for our boys. It’s not something we could outright ban, because really – how would we enforce that?  – M.M

As a mom and a teacher, my personal toy gun rule is that guns are never pointed at people or animals you don’t intend to eat. Ever. If/when guns are imagined or played with, they may be pointed at targets that aren’t people or animals. – A.G.

What are the rules about shoot-em-up video games in your house?

No games that allow players to shoot humans, or animals in a non hunting environment, will be/are allowed in our home. – A.G.

My kids are only 4 and 6 years old. At this point, we really don’t allow them to play a lot of video games. I would like to limit their exposure to the violent video games. However, if they go to a birthday party at an arcade, I’m not going to forbid my sons to play the Star Wars video games. I’ll probably also not worry about them playing video games at other people’s houses. However, in our home, I’m planning on restricting their access to violent video games. – A.J.

We don’t do video games or own a gaming system. They do play games on the iPad from time to time, but haven’t played anything gun related on it. – J.E.

We allow first-person shooters as long as “humans” aren’t being killed. We also restrict based on how graphic the violence is, how bad the language is and whether there are negative representations of women. We don’t allow the shooting of humans because we know video games can be immersive. Shooting a weird looking alien is more akin to playing with a toy gun. We acknowledge that the we’ve drawn may be arbitrary, so we monitor first-person shooter game play. – A.C.

We didn’t allow any first person shooter games until the boys were 10. Now they can have them, as long as there is no realism to them – like Plants v Zombies. – M.M.

We have them now, just within the past year or so. My boy is almost 13. I’m not fond of them and limit his time with them. Honestly, he plays more basketball games right now. I try playing his shooting games and have more fun stopping in the kitchens and blowing up watermelons – is that so different than watching blood splatter from a CGI? I don’t know. – D.M.

How would you want your child’s school to handle stick/finger guns on the playground?

I am totally against kids getting suspended for playing pretend guns with their fingers at school. In my son’s old school, he got into trouble for playing attack of the Zombies with pretend blasters on the playground. I think this is ridiculous. – A.J.

As a former teacher, it was really easier to prohibit all “guns” because I didn’t feel like it was my job to say if they were ok or not. However, I totally disagree with a black and white ‘no tolerance’ pretend-gun-rule in schools. Redirection and conversation about why it might be ok at home but it’s not ok at school is just so much more beneficial. – A.G.

I’d be upset if the school made a big deal about kids using finger guns. I think bullying is a much more harmful issue on elementary school playgrounds. – M.M.

Let me say that I am a teacher, and I am constantly hearing “no guns at school.” What you’re doing is limiting the kid’s imagination, and making something very innocent into something fear-based. – E.S.

Hunting: Is this part of your family culture? If so, when do your kids get started?

My husband grew up on a ranch and his family hunted frequently. You don’t want to know the ritual when they killed their first buck. But, he hasn’t been interested in hunting as an adult. Neither of the girls have expressed an interest. – J.E.

My father hunts. I’m not sure if I’ll let my boys hunt….maybe when they’re teenagers.  – A.J.

Hunting is a big part of our family culture. We start young, with discussions about WHY we hunt, the differences between hunting for food and hunting for sport (and the overlap that can occur). We include game/herd/species management in the basic hunting curriculum. Kids in our family are introduced to hunting at a very early age because they’re not excluded from the activities. – A.G.

I’ve hunted once in my life. My Dad used to but hasn’t in decades. My in-laws do not hunt. So, no. We don’t hunt. But we have no problem with hunting. – A.C.

It is part of my extended family’s culture. My 13 year old niece in PA shot her first buck last fall – clean kill with a bow and arrow – she also cleaned it and ate it. It’s not my cup of tea, or my kids’ cup of tea. My dad and brother hunted. I got my hunting license at 16 because i wanted to go with my dad, he never allowed me. (I think he knew the actual killing would leave me in pieces). – D.M.

Guns in the home: Yes, No, Maybe so?

One shotgun and two BB guns that grandpa gave the boys. The gun is in a combination lock case in the attic and the BB guns are up high in the garage gathering dust. – S.B.

No guns in the home. We’re not against gun ownership, we simply don’t see the need to have one ourselves. – A.C.

We do not allow any guns in our house. I actually ask people if they have guns in their house before we allow our kids to go over to someone else’s house on a play date. If the person has a gun, I ask if the gun is in a safe. – A.J.

We have guns in our home. They are locked in a gun safe and the ammunition is secured separately. – A.G.

My husband’s rifle is in my parent’s safe, 9 hours away. – J.E.

How have you approached gun safety with your kids? At what age did you start?

We started gun safety conversations as soon as the kids started being interested in playing with toy guns. The early talks were about staying away from guns or letting and adult know immediately if they encountered a gun. When they were 9, they learned how to handle a rifle at camp (target practice). Now we talk more about the social justice issues with gun violence and about the differences between hunting guns and guns that are more likely to be used against people. We also talk about the role that hunting plays in wildlife management. – M.M.

We’ve talked very little about it, mainly just that real guns are different from fake ones and that you should never point one at yourself or others. – J.E.

Gun safety is non-negotiable. I knew at a really young age that guns are not pointed at people, how to check to see if a gun was loaded or not, how to check if the safety was on and put it on, and how to pick up and put a gun down safely. When those skills are ingrained, it becomes easier to teach gun handling. Just to be clear, in our house we’re only have hunting shotguns and rifles. We do not own or have hand guns but are all familiar with them and the same rules apply. Unknown guns and guns that are’t ours/yours are not to be touched without permission. Black and white rule.- A.G.

I don’t plan on teaching my kids to use a gun. However, as of this time, I told my older son that if he ever sees a gun, he should move away from it and get an adult. – A.J.

We’ve shown the kids the real guns at Academy and pointed out how similar they are to toys. We have also told them a thousand times to run to a grownup if a friend ever pulls out a gun that’s not obviously a Nerf gun. But we worry. Culturally, we should become more comfortable with disclosing to visitors whether or not we own guns. It should be like dogs. “We have two dogs, do you mind them in the house?” – A.C.

We’ve talked about general gun safety, no specifics. -D.M.

Do you ask about guns in the houses of friends, before your kids go over?

No. It seems accusatory and so I’m not comfortable asking. No one has ever asked us either. – A.C.

Before a first sleepover, we have had folks ask about guns in our home and we have asked others about guns in their home. The couple times we’ve been in that conversation it was quite casual and low stress. We have limited our kids’ ability to go to a particular friend’s home because the hunting guns were taken out of the safe by the kids when my kids were at the house. I wasn’t comfortable with that family’s gun safety plan. – M.M.

Yes! I do/will/would! And I am not offended when people ask me! I’m not asking to be judgy – I want to know if they are secured, I want to talk to my child about our rules for gun engagement and what to do if those rules can’t/aren’t being followed. I want my child’s friends to know what our rules are and I want their parent’s to know that we take their child’s safety as seriously as out’s. – A.G.


Resources:

Gun Safety with Kids in the House

How to Teach Your Child Gun Safety

Gun Safety: Keeping Children Safe

Project Child Safe

Handguns in the Home

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5 comments

  1. Wisemommies says:

    I haven’t thought about talking with my son(s) before they have a sleep over or just go over to play at another home with regards to guns. The thought scares me. Good post….has me thinking! Beth, wisemommies.com

  2. Kate says:

    We are a southern family, so guns were just part of the norm in my house growing up. Now I’m married to a good ol’ country guy who enjoys hunting, so there are gun in our house. We have an 8 month old son, and when he’s old enough we will teach him about gun safety, perhaps by allowing him to take a gun safety/hunting class that’s offered in our area. Regardless of how parents feel personally towards firearms, I do think it’s important that they educate their children about guns.

  3. kathryn says:

    We are very anti-gun. My dad was a police officer growing up. I feel like it’s ok for law enforcement, but no one else.

  4. I haven’t decided what I think about toy guns. Gosh. Living in the South, toy guns, hunting guns, bow & arrows, etc are super popular with the boys. My husband hunts too. I just don’t know how I feel about my 3 year old playing with them….

  5. dirtandnoise says:

    My oldest doesn’t have any toy guns, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t use other stuff and pretend. I think it’s fine as long as he’s not pointing it directly at someone. We’re not at the sleepover stage yet, but having a gun in the home really frightens me. I might feel silly, but i will ask.

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