One of my favorite things to play with when I was a kid was my cowboy outfit. It consisted of a cowboy hat, suede waistcoat and a six-shooter in a holster. I used to practice my quick draw in front of the mirror, obsessed as I was by the westerns on TV and films. When I grew older, I developed a passion for pacifism and I turned against toy guns.
My husband and I both agreed to raise our kids without recourse to toy pistols, rifles or machine guns etc. I find it depressing as I go round toy departments, to see toy grenades, fire throwers and all manner of armaments. Our kids didn’t have toy guns of any kind and we told our friends and family not to buy them as presents. Some people thought we were being cranky. Others, who had given their kids toy guns, took it as a personal criticism and were offended. For us, it was simply a personal decision about how we wanted to raise our kids.
We wanted our children to grow up in an atmosphere of love and tolerance. We didn’t want influences such as toy guns to interfere with that. I see it as a confusing contradiction when you tell your kids not to fight in the playground because fighting is wrong, and then you encourage them to pretend to spray their buddies with machine gun fire. It’s only pretend, say our objectors, but I think it’s giving violence a seal of approval. Too often these days, toy guns turn into real guns.
Our society glorifies violence, on TV and computer games. I think young people become desensitized to violence. After playing a game of killing people all day with toy guns or games, they lose empathy for the real thing. It’s cool to join a gang and act out fantasies for real. Columbine didn’t happen in a vacuum.
Children should be shown the effects of violence. I don’t mean we should expose them to shock horror scenes, but they have to realize that people who are shot and stabbed don’t just stand up and walk away. We have to stop violence being romanticized. There’s nothing pretty about being shot and there’s nothing glorious about war. I think everyone should throw the toy guns away and take the kids round a veteran’s hospital to see the consequences of firing a trigger.