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« Sign of the times | Main | Weapons of Mass Distraction »

February 27, 2007

Boys and Shootouts

Jonathan Turley has an excellent piece in Sunday’s Washington Post titled “My Boys Like Shootouts. What’s Wrong With That?” The article makes some great points, and any male reader who doesn’t get a few laughs along the way needs to lighten up a bit. I’m afraid I cannot excerpt Turley’s article much, though, because I’m incapable of limiting the excerpts to a reasonable amount … it’s just that good, and readers should take the piece in, in its entirety. Turley’s points:

1. Boys naturally like playing with toy weapons.
2. There’s nothing wrong with boys playing with toy weapons.
3. So just let boys play with toy weapons already!

I couldn’t agree more. Believe me, my mother tried the “gun-free home” thing too. What a bummer that was. I still remember getting a suction-cup, target-shooting handgun game at my birthday party only to give it up to my mom after my friends left. What a sweet 15 minutes I enjoyed, though, when I snuck into my parents’ room later and shot those mugshot targets like an 8-year-old Dirty Harry.

My parents finally relented, by a (surely miraculous … must’ve been my tearful prayers) change of heart, which, of course, explains the toy Uzi that followed, not to mention the BB guns … and … um … the, uh, homemade (bottle-)rocket launcher. Now, I don’t necessarily want my own boys firing illegal bottle rockets around the neighborhood, but they’ve gotten pretty handy with their plastic Roman swords and homemade cardboard shields, and they enjoy chasing imaginary bad guys with their commando-carrying toy Blackhawk helicopter. But are they obsessed with weapons? Hardly. They’d rather be on their bikes or playing Backyard Football on the PC.

At any rate, I think that Turley inadvertently hints at something important about boys being allowed to play with toy weapons and act out combat.

Namely, that it is important, if we want to raise this generation of boys up to be valiant, chivalrous, and heroic men. Even, perhaps, the way God intended them to be.

Still, when [Turley's sons'] best friend recently invited them to his Army-themed birthday party, it didn't bother us a bit (though some parents did refuse to let their children attend). In fact, I was struck by how, more than combat fighting, the boys tended to act out scenes involving rescuing comrades or defending the wounded. What I saw was not boys experimenting with carnage and slaughter, but modeling notions of courage and sacrifice. They were trying to experience the emotions at the extremes of human conduct: facing and overcoming fear to remain faithful to their fellow soldiers.

Or, as child psychologist Penny Holland put it in her book, "We Don't Play with Guns Here," their make-believe games were "part of . . . making sense of the world [imitating] timeless themes of the struggle between good and evil." This explanation is probably all the more important in a world filled with violent images of war on television and in the news.

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Kristine Steakley

As the sister of two boys, I can attest that when plastic guns are not available, they'll make anything into a gun -- fingers, sticks, green beans... Apparently, it's hard-wired into them. In the same way, I remember making elaborately furnished homes out of piles of rocks with my friends in 5th grade. Three cheers for imaginative play!


My young son's first "gun" was his hand...and that little buzzing sound he could make to simulate a rapid fire weapon.

I don't seek out guns to buy (oh, except for a bubble filled gun & recently a sponge arrow shooting gun)

but neither do I shut his gun activities down, except to say "Don't point even a toy gun at someone's face".

(And how could I confiscate his little hand, even if I wanted to???)


The schools are this way, even Christian schools. And Christian daycares of my familiarity. Not making a gun out of lego, not pointing a finger, all of that is utterly, emotionally, prohibited.


Great comments, all. I, for one, most enjoyed the article's description of the apparently toy-weapon-starved boy who bent the Barbie into an L-shape and used that for a gun. Must've been Barbie's "stilleto heels" that provided the idea for turning a doll into a weapon.

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