A failed attempt at gun control

I grew up in a house with three brothers all relatively close in age.  With that many boys running around violence, whether simulated or real was a constant factor.  In my youth I recall that my mother tried to experiment with toy gun control.  My dad was a cop, and while we had guns in the house mom was initially opposed to us having toy guns for reasons that remain clouded to me.  Anyway, mom forbade the use of toy guns, which lasted just about as long as it took us to figure out that you could fabricate a toy gun from LEGO and Construx (if your childhood did not include Construx, I weep for you).  Realizing that toy gun control was futile, she then relented and allowed toy guns in the house.

Playing with toy guns, running around yelling “bang” and “I got you” in the So. Cal desert was an integral part of my childhood.  Cops and robbers wasn’t nearly as popular as Army vs. Iraqis; with the Gulf War going off while I was 8 in similar terrain to my home town, it was a natural expansion of the traditional childhood shoot ’em up.

Eventually I started playing video games, first person shooters like Wolfenstein 3D, Dark Forces, and space games such as Wing Commander and TIE Fighter.  The common thread that ties all that together is that people are constantly getting shot with pretend guns.  An 8 year old kid yelling “bang, I got you” is functionally the same as shooting a pixelated Nazi with an equally pixelated SMG.

But even with all that simulated shooting I did as a kid, when I received my first real firearm, I never once pointed it at another person.  The point of all of this is twofold: first that gun control doesn’t work.  The LEGO analogy is apt; we have thousands of skilled machinists and the tools to manufacture firearms in this country.  Even a total ban on guns wouldn’t be able to stop people that needed the weaponry for nefarious purposes from fabricating it.

The 2nd point is more for current gunnies – education is important.  I didn’t get my first firearm until I was 15 or 16, but before that I had gone shooting with my dad, and learned the 4 rules, learned gun safety.  By the time I was12, I understood the difference between my pretend guns and a real gun, and I lived in mortal terror of touching a real gun without and adult around.  I do need to add the caveat that I don’t have kids, so my advice about raising kids around guns is worth precisely what you paid for it!


  1. If you haven’t read David Grossman’s book “On Combat” (follow up to On Killing) you should. In “On Killing” and “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill” he went off on violent video games and their negative effects. I think he got an earful from people that caused him to think about the topic a little harder, and in “On Combat” and in his recent lectures he’s refined his thinking to finally get closer to the truth:

    Simulated combat as childhood play, conducted within boundaries, supervised and enforced by adults, is an excellent way to teach and evaluate discipline, empathy and controlled aggression. Failure to play well with others and/or stay within activity-appropriate limits and rules is probably an indicator of potential for greater behavior problems in the future.

  2. God, you make me feel OLD.
    I grew up with cowboys and injuns…….
    I was married and had 2 kids when Desert Storm (that was the first Iraqi war, right?) was brewing, then we went back and did it again a few years later. And are still there…..
    Had an erector set, lincoln logs, and lego was a new thing and all the pieces were different versions of square. No fancy shapes like nowdays to fool with!

    Had BB guns as far back as I can remember, and even though we were unattended while shooting them no one ever lost an eye.

    First real gun I actually owned was a pump shotgun I got while in HS.

    My kids (4 now) know not to fool with any gun unless I hand it to them, has been drummed into their heads since they were old enough to understand the words.
    No problems altho I do keep several loaded guns about the house, and the kids know where they are and to leave them be, if they want to see one all they have to do is ask and I’ll get it for them and be sure they are unloaded, keeps them from sneaking a looksee at what they are not supposed to touch.

  3. Penny & Teller have a show on showtime and last season they had an episode on Video Game Violence. It had some rather compelling information in it. They had a 9 year old that had been playing violent video games for hours on end every day and gave him an AR and he shot it once and started to cry.

  4. I remember my first trip to Knob Creek. It was a little….overwhelming. But I got over that once I started doing some shooting. 😀

  5. Karl, I’ve actually not read “On Combat” specifically because the anti-video game rant in “On Killing” was so misdirected and foolish. I wondered how a guy that’s so smart could be so dumb about something.

    However, with your recommendation, I’ll probably pick up On Combat since it sounds like he changed his tune a bit.

  6. I’ve played videogames almost every day of my life since I was like..10. And I’ve never even pointed a firearm at another living thing (at least not on purpose anyway).

    BB guns don’t count. :X

  7. Forget legos. Any stick with a fork in it turned into an M-16 or a revolver when i was a kid. A longer one could be either a rocket launcher or a samurai sword, depending on the needs of the moment.

    Somehow despite that, the violent video games I’ve been playing since I was five, my love of violent sports, and my current new hobby of defensive pistol shooting, I’ve never come close to being in a real fight, managing to defuse every situation that’s gotten close. I must be doing something wrong…

  8. My mother, too, was of the “no toy guns as children so you won’t want real ones when you grow up” crowd.

    Worked like a charm, eh?

  9. My wife likes to tell this story: Her friend had bad feelings about guns so she decided to exclude toy guns from her children’s playthings. She figured if they never played with the toy guns they would never want real ones.
    Well, one morning over breakfast she watched as her six-year-old son bit his toast into the shape of a pistol and then start shooting the thing.

    She gave into human nature and bought the kid a toy gun and I admire her for that.

    My son has toy guns, but he makes his own out of junk he picks up anyway. He like swords too, and builds them as well. It’s just a basic desire; boys want to pick up a stick and swing it. I think the thing to do is let them satisfy the need for sticks, stones, swords and guns but to make it a part of thier upbringing. That way, when you turn them loose into the great big world, they’ll know how to handle the dangerous stuff and have some fun too.

  10. Not to get too political, but I grew up playing cowboys and indians… but if they keep trying to replace good parenting, common sense, and safety with more gun control laws, it may be time to play cowboys and government!

  11. “Cops and robbers wasn’t nearly as popular as Army vs. Iraqis; with the Gulf War going off while I was 8 in similar terrain to my home town, it was a natural expansion of the traditional childhood shoot ‘em up.”

    Oh my… All of a sudden, Goddess, do I feel OLD. 😛

    I remember growing up with my lil brother in the late 70’s and early 80’s and our game was Stormtroopers and Rebels or a mix of Dungeons and Dragons with whatever tree branches we could find. Heck, we even had these really neat cap guns that worked like the real thing made by a company called Edison Giocattoli that’s even still in business today: http://www.edisongiocattoli.it/index.php?products. Then, of course, we played lazer tag with the infamous Starlight pistols that if I remember right a kid was shot by a cop due to the flashing red light.

    We never really had a problem with guns while growing up, though my fellow students thought I was nuts running around with boys with guns and swords rather than playing with dolls, mainly since our daddy made sure we knew the difference between the real thing and pretend. Nowadays if a child plays like we used to they’ll either get sent to therapy and put on drugs or picked up by the local PoPo and taken home with a talk to mommy and daddy. -_-

  12. “Cops and robbers wasn’t nearly as popular as Army vs. Iraqis; with the Gulf War going off while I was 8”

    Ok, you’re killing me with that one. So while I was carving laps in the Red Sea during Desert Shield/Storm, you were 8? God I feel old right now.

  13. My mom used to be so generally against weapons in general she fought my dad to not give me a pocket knife..which was then taken away about a week later thanks to an extremely spoiled neighbor. /storyforanotherday

    She also fought me getting a firearm..then me getting another…then another, etc. etc. etc.
    She eventually gave up that fight.

  14. Hehe, I was raised in the late 60’s, early 70’s, guess that hippie peace and love stuff didn’t take!
    Enjoy hunting, fishing, shooting when i can, which sadly is less and less as I get older………

  15. LOL, when I was 8, the VN war was just beginning and WWII was still vividly remembered by middle-aged men, who were then, younger than I am now.

  16. Pff Zermoid, you’re not too old. My father was born in the mid 50’s and he’s the one that got me started on gaming..and he STILL games!

  17. @ Zermoid & Nick – Some are luckier than others at being able to compete in active sports. I’m 60 and still playing 2nd base on a hardball team. We have three guys on our team in their 70s and one (74) is also a pitcher.

  18. Ahab, Construxs? I thought I (and my brothers) was the only one who remembered that building toy! Loved those, abused them terribly, but loved them.

    Fun family story that’s connected. My Aunt tried to ban toy guns and weapons from my cousin. One day my encountered my cousin at his house while visiting playing with a stick that as my Mom approached he hid. When asked what he was doing he said something like “playing war, don’t tell Mom,” and the stick he was using was his weapon.

    My Mom, apparently, told my Aunt, and my Aunt eventually relented on the entire “no weapon” spiel.”

    As for me, I grew up with the rule that you never pointed real, imaginary or toy guns at people. Period. (Unless the design of toy was something like a water gun or a laser tag system then it was allowed, duh). So my brothers and I never played at shooting each other. Instead we grabs random sticks a sparred/beat on each other.

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