Should Kids Play With Toy Guns?

Should kids still be allowed to play with toy guns?

Should kids be allowed to play with toy guns?

While working on a recent revolver-themed issue of Gun Digest the Magazine, I was reminded of just days earlier when my 6-year-old son was playing with a western-style six-shooter cap gun I had bought him during a recent trip to South Dakota.

It was similar to the any dozen of toy guns my friends and I played with when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s. My son had a new friend from school coming over that day, and he commented that he wanted to show him his guns.

“That’ll be fun,” I said, but then a thought hit me.

As a kid before video games and “play dates” became the norm, my life and those of my friends revolved around Whiffle ball, bikes and playing guns—sometimes as cops and robbers, sometimes as cowboys and Indians. More often than not, however, in a time when WWII victories were glorified in the movies and young men were returning from Vietnam with tales of battle, playing guns took the form of mimicking war.

But these are different times, and given the modern suburban disconnect from hunting and firearms common to many of our fellow citizens, I know quite a few parents who don’t allow their kids to play with toy guns. For that reason, I suggested to my boy that he put the guns up; at least until I could talk to the other parents and see how they felt about the matter. I didn’t want to make decisions for their kids anymore than I want them making them for mine.

But this concern isn’t just relegated to non-gunowning parents. I know of at least one gunowner, who in the interest of teaching his children gun safety, doesn’t allow them to play with toy guns either.

My question to you then, as gunowners and parents teaching our kids to respect firearms, should children today be allowed to play with toy guns?

When we posed this question to our magazine readers, the response was spirited to say the least, and while most of them were more than fine with allowing their kids or grandkids to play with toy guns, there were quite a few different opinions as to what type of play was acceptable. Many of these initial responses will appear in the March 27 issue of Gun Digest. Check it out if you get a chance.

In case you missed the opportunity to comment before, we’d love to know how you feel on the topic. Let us know your thoughts and we may just share them in another future issue of Gun Digest as this is quite clearly a topic where most folks have an opinion.

Simply comment below, email us at gundigestonline@fwmedia.com or join the discussion on our Facebook page. We’d love to have you be a part of our Gun Digest community.


Recommended Resource

Gun Safety in the Home

Are you looking for a guide to provide your children with an understanding and respect for firearms? Gun Safety in the Home is your resource. Written by renown firearms instructor Massad Ayoob, the book teaches fundamental firearms safety principles, proper firearms security and storage methods and the correct way to handle firearms, among other important concepts.

20 thoughts on “Should Kids Play With Toy Guns?

  1. Aaron Mulligan

    For me, yes, kids can play toy guns but of course with parental guidance. Parents should always remind kids about the do’s and dont’s in playing guns because children might have a difficult time making the distinction between a toy and a real gun, which can lead to gun accidents. And I suggest if you allow toy guns, buy brightly colored squirt guns or foam bullet guns that can’t be mistaken for a real gun.

  2. WNCSurvival

    While I am not yet a parent, I am a gun owner and work with children ages 4-17 in the mental health field. I plan on having my first child in the next 2-3 years, and I think the issues of playing with guns is a very interesting one. My parents were against toy guns, however by the age of 10 I had manage to convince them to get me a replica springfield bolt action rifle and boy did I have a lot of fun with it. Me and my friends would run the neighborhood playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians or whatever was spiking our interest at the time. This was in a small suburban town about 15 minutes outside of Boston, While I now live in North Carolina, I am fairly certain that any sort of play like that would now result in the police being called almost instantly. In fact I have read some news articles concerning police being called when children under 13 are playing in the neighborhood in any capacity without parental supervision.
    I suppose the pertinent question is if this is a good thing. I do not believe it is. While I definitely did not learn how to handle a gun properly with toys, as easily notable by twirling a toy revolver around using the trigger guard like I saw in the cowboy movies. One could argue that toy guns do not teach proper gun safety, however I would challenge that toy knives, toy swords or even toy stoves do not teach proper safety. It is very important with a child to teach them to distinguish between a toy and the real thing. In my experience there are some children that will be able to do this easily and others that may struggle with it. It is important to know your child and their capability to distinguish between a toy and the real thing. It is also the responsibility of the parent to store their firearms in a way that they are not accessible to their children without supervision to prevent a child from misidentifying a toy gun from a real gun. Toy guns could provide a useful tool to a parent to have their child demonstrate proper gun safety before allowing them to handle real guns. I think the main concern people have with toy guns is times where children have accidentally shot other children not understanding the difference between a real gun and a toy gun, this is not the child’s fault nor the parents fault for allowing them to play with toy guns. It is the parents fault for leaving a real gun accessible to the child and not teaching them about real guns and the dangers involved in handling them.
    Some people seem to think that playing with guns in the fashion that many of us were used to as children could cause children to be more violent. While perhaps if children were playing instruments or reading books they would be less familiar with guns and the idea of violence the truth is that instead of playing in a creative manner with friends children these days often play violent video games and watch violent movies. As a result the are introduced to far more violent ideas and imagery than they would be playing pretend with guns. I believe one of the greatest issues with our children today is that play often consist of electronic mediated means rather than being based on the creativity of the mind.
    Proper gun safety and toy guns should not be associated as long as the distinction between toy guns and real guns can be clearly defined. I had terrible gun safety with toy guns as a kid, I kept my finger on the trigger at all times, I pointed it at my friends when we were playing (my parents did teach me never to point toy guns at people I wasn’t playing with) and all sorts of other things that would be a terrible idea with a real gun. When I started shooting did any of these tendencies stick with me, not a one, the reason being that I was properly trained in gun safety before being able to handle a real gun.

  3. vishnu

    I grew up in suburban NJ. My parents, teachers, and pretty much everyone else I knew while growing up was anti-gun. Nevertheless, my folks bought me a small arsenal of toy guns over the years. Go figure.

  4. buck16on

    There were 6 of us boys growing up in my neighborhood and we all played together with toy guns. That was 50+ years ago and none of us ever used a real gun incorrectly nor illegaly. A gun is no different than a chain saw, a shovel, a car; it’s just a tool. All tools need to be used correctly and safely; it’s simple it’s common sence.

  5. Basalard

    Bolt action .22 with supervision, yes. Toy guns, no. Don’t take a chance that in these days someone will think it is a real gun and shoot them in ‘self defense / stand your ground’.

    1. finchase44

      Toy guns, especially airsoft guns, are no different than any other gun. A child needs to be properly instructed on the use of ANY GUN toy or otherwise before being allowed to use it. While I’m all for the proper instruction of kids and guns, the key words here are PROPER INSTRUCTION.. Many of the airsoft guns of today are used as training alternatives to real guns due to the high cost of ammunition these days. The gas blow back models for Glock and ESPECIALLY the Kel-Tec PMR-30 have high muzzle velocities upward of 450 ft/sec that can cause serious damage to child and adult alike. SAFETY FIRST!!! PERIOD!!!

  6. jfrosselot

    When a child fires a toy gun, what happens? A pop, a snap, a noise, music? And so when a child fires a real gun, what should the child expect? A loud report and some destruction? No, the child will expect the noise, pop or some other light harmless noise. If one is going to have guns around the house in the vicinity of children, the parents should take the awesome responsibility to teach the child about real guns, even to taking the child to a shooting range in order to educate the child about real guns. It would be a sobering experience for all concerned. On the other hand, there are lots of shooting video games that teach children how to shoot and reload. And lots of movies about which will show the child how to shoot, reload and aim and fire. The young child will not automatically know the difference between a toy gun and a real gun.

  7. DJnRF

    In 1980 while teaching a firearms safety education class I had this issue arise.
    While not looking at the person that had expressed their concern about their
    kids playing with toy guns, I told a story that I had long before learned. Here
    is that story.

    One day little Johnny and little Joey were going out to play. Johnny and Joey
    decided that they were going to play soldiers and would fight a war. Johnny
    had his guns that his parents had gotten him, but Joey said he had to go home
    to get one for him to use. When he got back they started their play war.

    After a while little Johnny’s Mom, as happy as Mommies are when their kids
    are taking care of themselves by playing in the back yard so she can stay
    in the home and take care of whatever it is that Mommies do when they are
    watching, but not watching the kids, looked out the kitchen window to see
    how things were going. To her horror she say that little Joey had a real gun,
    not a toy! So, being a typical Mommy, she ran outside frantically to take that
    gun away from little Joey

    Let us pause for a moment here to ask ourselves a question.
    In whose hands would this real gun most likely be safest; Mommies, or
    little Joey’s?

    Mommies, almost always do not like or care for guns. Little Joey does
    like them. Mommy would never fire a gun, or even wish to learn anything
    about guns. Little Joey will read about them, watch others with them, and
    see on TV just how to use that gun. Both Mommy, and little Joey know
    what a real gun will do, but it is normal for Mommy to know nothing
    about safe handling of any gun, let alone a war souvenier brought home
    by little Joey’s Dad.

    Need I say more? Most times Mommies are not safer with any gun than
    are the kids who do like them and play with them. Kids are always going
    to be kids, and may have an interest in al guns. There is only one way to \
    handle such a situation. Mommies should always take a firearms safety
    and familiarization course to learn how to safely handle them and to
    safely be able to unload any type of firearm. Then, for a proper followup
    to this for Mommy, all kids should also be required to attend a firearms
    safety class to learn all they can about handling any firearm safely.

    No such fiearms class should be intended to teach anyone to shoot, or
    hunt. The whole issue for the class is safety education. That is not saying
    that the instructor may not have a part to allow some shooting, but it is
    not the primary goal of such a class. If a person wants to learn how to
    shoot well, that is a different class, or the constant practice that would
    follow.

    An instructor should concentrate merely on the safe handling of any
    type of firearm. The ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ are even more
    important than the Ten Commandments of Firearm Safety. Those
    Commandments are theorhetically perfect, but there is one area in
    them that is contradictory in the human brain. Instead of these the
    sticking to how each type of firearm works, how to handle it safely,
    and what should never be done are the most important in safety.

    Again, it is education of the basic types, and how to safely handle
    each type. If everyone is trained in this manner, no one will ever
    be hurt by any firearm, or will cause someone to be hurt by their
    ignorance of firearms.

  8. dcunningh

    ABSOLUTELY! Now days kids have to be taught how to handle guns, toy or otherwise. I am a police officer, gunsmith and FFL holder. Since my son was born, my off duty weapon, in its kydex holster, laid on the kitchen island. He was always taught not to touch, and if he wanted to look at it, ask. When he asked, it was always showned and explained how to safely look and check for the following: Safety on, loaded or unloaded, and always point in a safety direction, but never put your finger on the trigger. He is now 9 years old and much safer than most adults I deal with. (He always treated his toy guns with the same procedures). A child has to be taught. The same with a teenager in driving, you can’t start at 15/16 yoa and expect them to drive like we do. They have to watch you “Practice What You Preach!!”

  9. hemi426392

    Absolutely! I have my first 22lr from my father when I was 8 yrs old. My children play with guns and I believe that by allowing them to play with toy guns and taking them to the range with real firearms both teaches them the safe way to handle a firearm and take the curiosity away from the guns making them less likely to mishandle and injure themselves or others. We all know that curiosity killed the cat.

  10. uncommonarms

    Play guns of course. We did it all the time in the 60’s and none my friends grew up top be killers. I skipped the toy guns with my girls, started them out on air rifle/pistol @ 5yo. The started .22lr at 6 and now 8 and 12 they both shoot .223 AR.

    Jack
    NRA Cert. Instructor, FFL :-)

    1. WilSammi

      I think one thing being overlooked is the tremendous amount of damage done by video games to our children. If any of us were walking down the street with our child and someone passed us by only to walk ahead, pull out a gun and blow someone’s head off we would be aghast, terrified, repulsed, and would try to remove our child and ourselves from the area as quickly as possible, yet video games replicate this same ghastly image almost as if it happened right in front of you complete with blood spray, gore, death, you name it. Some even have this scenario being played out against police officers! Let’s wake up to the real damage being done here! The same mindset exists in Hollywood with what ia shown in movies, the more realistic the better including all the gore, mayhem and weapoms yet many of these same people are the most outspoken about guns and gun control! When we played cowboys and indians, war, what have you with toy guns as children the ‘deaths we saw on TV and movies only had the ‘bad guys’ simply falling down with no further visual representation whatsoever and that is exactly what we did when playing those games! Remember shouting “Hey, I got you, your out!”? Hollywood and the video game makers need to be taken to task to clean up the trash they produce and push out to our children as well as adults who are emotionally unbalanced or suffering from mental illness. Children should definitely be taught with real guns when they are capable at a safe range by a parent or responsible adult. I taught both of my boys and am proud to say they both enjoy shooting with me to this day and always exhibit the proper manual of arms. When they came of driving age I asked each of them if they knew the difference between a gun and a car. When they didn’t respond I told them a gun typically kills one person at a time yet a car can wipe out an entire family at once with the same consequence as a bullet in that once the error is made it can’t be taken back or recalled. A child can see the damage done to a melon by a firearm at a range and the adult can point out the similarity between the melon and a body part, or a plastic gallon jug filled with food coloring colored water for that matter which will literally explode all over the place. Wake up America and realize who the real purveyors or unspeakable violence are.

  11. CurlyQ

    What really surprises me is that this is even an issue. A gun is an inanimate object. A tool. No more. No less. As with almost any tool in our lives, it can do great harm if used carelessly or criminally. A gun, in and of itself is totally harmless. So is “playing” with guns. I know people who won’t let their kids play with toy guns. But they don’t hesitate to let them play with toy cars. Look at the death rates on the nation’s highways and tell me an automobile can’t cause great harm if used improperly. Parents are there to teach their children right from wrong. Teach them responsibility. If they learn these lessons, what they play with is immaterial.

    1. Sisu

      Agreed. When perhaps 4 or 5 I had my own tool set (real, not plastic toys) and a collection of 6 or 7 toy guns (some even fired projectiles); I had a display gun rack made by my Father on the my wall. I also received instruction on which tools served what purposes (and the benefit of participating in my Father’s DIY projects), and how to handle my “toy guns” as if they were real; reminders were gentle but certain. Those that deny children toys guns and real tools, deny those same children an education. Those that deny children toys guns and real tools lack self confidence and thus cannot trust themselves, let alone others; they are consumed by a fear of making or being associated with mistakes. Yet, “mistakes” are how the most successful individuals apply and extend the knowledge that others have shared with them. We should all want children to learn about, make mistakes with and develop an appreciation for the “toy guns”, before they have access to real guns. … Finally, a related point: marksmanship should be a required facet of all Junior and Senior High School gym programs.

  12. mstrmstr

    My Take? I grew up in a Hunting/Outdoors family that depended partially on the bag of the day. We learned firearms safety almost from birth. We also played WAR and Cowboys with toy guns. I even had a large plastic “machine gun” that made a rat a tat sound and when I had a battery it had a red muzzle that flashed and reciprocated…. I am 63 now and have never even had a traffic ticket.. When I was 12 I was given a Browning auto 5 from my father…I still have it and it is a prized item. From age 7 through 12 I was allowed to go hunting with the men( and my mother- a crack shot) But no gun in hand.. I was the dog..Hunt the up- flush them and king blind builder. My take is this.. Sure kids can play- many now do not even go outdoors…a well rounded childhoot breeds great adults.. Sheltered under cared for children breed the Bundys, Bates, McVey and Gacys of the world

  13. Chained

    Sure why not? I played with them when I was young and grew up to be non-violent gun carrying productive member of society. Heck, there are many children today handling real guns for competitive reasons. I blame a lot of the “kids and guns” problems today on the lack of parental discipline and the commie media trying to put the fear of guns into young minds so as to build a nation of future anti-gunners willing to be enslaved by a fascist dictator.

  14. Joseph TerryJoseph Terry

    This hits close to home, Doug. A retired cop buddy just asked me if he should buy his grandson the toy gun set he was mooning over at the store. I asked him why not (with parent approval) get him a little .22 bolt gun and take him to the range? In my experience when a kid is coordinated enough to ride a bike without the training wheels and respects adult authority they are ready for a private session at a safe shooting location. (“Private” because the noise and activity of other shooters can blow their concentration.) Keep the range session short, shoot from a solid rest and use reactive targets. Give them the safety talk after they shoot so it is based on their new reality not abstract concept. I don’t have a problem with toy guns if that’s comfortable for mom and dad. In my house it was “guns are tools, not toys”. Either way, the future of gun rights in America is held in the tiny hands of our kids.

  15. sarustam

    Absolutely yes.Its normal process of learning and understanding the reality of life to know about everything around yourself,including guns.Looks like now days politicians and mass media do not understand simple fact that we do not need to fear guns as simple tools in our hands but instead we do need to fear WRONG and DANGEROUS people with guns.As kid i was played with toy guns all the time and my father and uncle told me lot about them and its actually help me a lot in my life,specially when i was in army.Its normal to teach kids about guns and let them play with them and learn of what role they playing in modern life.Best regards!

COMMENT