Janie’s Got a Gun?

Jan 08

I am a big sports fan.  Part of my morning routine includes watching a snippet of SportsCenter while nursing Tiny Baby.  This morning I learned that Washington Wizards superstar (and popular blogger) Gilbert Arenas has been suspended indefinitely after bringing guns into his team’s locker room and, allegedy, drawing a gun on a teammate.  (Arenas admitted the first charge on Twitter – this guy is a social media marvel! – but continues to deny the second.)  The Arenas story also brought to mind the recent trial and sentencing of former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress who accidentally shot himself with his own gun while at a New York nightclub.

Both of these well-publicized incidents made me think about guns and the associations we have with them.  For some – including many people in my community – guns are (at least in part) a means to an end; these people are hunters and they use their guns to hunt.  Others, like me, have an aversion to guns based on a complex mixture of unfamiliarity, fear, and a general association of weapons with violence.  Still others have personally experienced guns as a threat and have reacted either by rejecting them or by embracing them as a means of self-defense or, perhaps, self-assertion.  And then there are the legions who fall both inside and outside of these admittedly imprecise categories.

Just as these ideas were percolating in my mind, I stumbled upon a blogger who was tackling the same issues with an interesting perspective.  Jennifer Fink at Blogging ‘Bout Boys wrote eloquently on Tuesday about her sons’ use of modeling clay to fashion a shotgun shell and a musket ball and her subsequent thoughts “about boys and the many ways our society restricts boy behavior.”  She writes:

Most boys have an innate fascination with weaponry and most boys have a desire to test their strength and courage against other boys. Boys have a natural tendency toward competition. Boys think, wonder and fantasize about war.
That doesn’t mean that the boys in question actually want to blow each other’s heads off; it just means that they’re learning how to make sense of those impulses. It means they’re exploring ideas. It means they’re growing.
What do our boys lose when we forbid them from all expressions of violence? When we tell them what their stories can and cannot be about? Do they not learn that there’s something wrong with them, at the core?

I found her words resonant and her questions fascinating, especially as they pointed to an issue I had not yet begun to ponder: will I let my own kids play with guns?

My brothers and I grew up playing with toy guns.  My family did not hunt, nor did we shoot recreationally, but we did play with guns as kids stereotypically do: we were cops and robbers, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Han Solo and Princess Leia.  Husband, meanwhile, reports that he was not allowed to play with guns at all.  (The irony is lost on neither of us that he is now a historian specializing in, among other things, war.)

Many of my friends with kids older than mine do not allow them to play with toy weapons of any sort.  And now they, Gilbert Arenas, Plaxico Burress, and Jennifer at Blogging ‘Bout Boys all have me wondering whose lead I should follow.  Should I keep toy guns out of my children’s hands or should I let them and their imaginations dictate?

Did you play with guns as a kid?  Do (did/would) you let your children play with them? 

Image: Toy Popgun by Jerrid322 via Wikimedia Commons.  Image is in the public domain.