I remember the day as if it was yesterday.
Fifteen years ago, I was about six years old, and I was “helping” my dad doing the dishes. At my house, “doing the dishes” has always been a rather intellectual affair. I would sit on the kitchen counter drying an occasional plate or fork (about one every three minutes), and ask my dad questions. About things I didn’t understand. Life, death, the general workings of the world, steam engines... You name it.
On this particular day, I initiated a conversation by asking what kind of poison was used in bullets.
Little-SharQ: Yes. Bullets kill people, I argued, having automatically assumed that this means they contain poison, because merely bleeding doesn’t kill you.
Dad: Ah. No, bullets don’t contain poison. Remember when you cut yourself on the playrack outside the house?
Dad: When you did that, you got hurt, and you had to go to the hospital. Bullets are kind of like those racks, except they fly very much faster than a swing. And they will go right through you. You bleed a lot, and you can die.
Little-SharQ is not convinced, but decides to ask why mommie doesn’t let him have a toy gun.
This story illustrates that children (even SharQs) don’t understand why handguns are dangerous and bad. Most children eventually understand that they are dangerous (people get killed on TV by the hundreds, both in movies and in “real” TV), but not that they are bad. Why? Because the good guy never dies. And children are prone to identify with the good guy, subconciously making them invincible as well.
Playing with guns is very much like playing with knives. You don’t give a child a plastic toy-knife so s/he can stab their friends with it, do you? Exactly the same argument applies to firearms, but even stronger: Whereas a knife has many uses, a gun only has one: that is harming people (note that I am leaving the entire discussion about self defense out of this, because it is completely irrelevant). You can’t cut bread with a gun, and all that.
Another argument is that some toy guns look too real - in societies where guns are readily available, a person holding a toy gun might easily get shot "in self defence", either by a lunatic, gun-toting, paranoid maniac neighbor, or by the police.
It is sad that, in some countries, guns are so readily available that there is an actual chance that a child might come across one. It is even worse that guns might be laying around loaded where children can find them, but that is a different discussion altogether. In these countries, the old “DTTA” rule (Don’t touch, tell an adult) should be drilled into the children pretty much from birth. Failing this, the old gun rule “don’t aim at something you don’t want to kill” should be a bare minimum. Children and guns go about as well together as children and drugs and several other sombre combinations.
In most European countries, where firearms are rare, and handguns are rarer, you would think there would be less of a problem with letting children play with toy guns. In my opinion, however, this is not so. It rather introduces the discussion of respect for human life.
I can see where Karfung comes from with his argument that children should be allowed to play with toy guns - but there are many things children shouldn’t do. Children, for example, shouldn’t have sex, but you don’t give little girls a dildo so they can get used to how penises are used.
Some things are not toys. Guns are among these things.