Walkabout In The Weminuche Wilderness

Herschel Smith · 05 Aug 2018 · 39 Comments

"There are no socialists in the bush" - HPS All of my physical training only barely prepared me for the difficulty of the Weminuche Wilderness (pronounced with the "e" silent).  It's National Forest land, not National Park.  The Department of Agriculture no longer prints maps of the area, so we relied on NatGeo for the map, and it's good, but not perfect. We have a lot of ground to cover, including traveling with firearms, the modification I made to one of my guns for the trip, the actors…… [read more]

Should Two Year Olds Be Allowed To Pretend Play With Guns?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Evanston Patch:

I came to realize that my child is a part of a world that can and always will contain guns. He idolized police officers. Stared from the living room window at the older neighborhood boys having squirt gun fights. Listed neon-colored nerf guns at the top of most wish lists. I didn’t want a gun to be the impossible itch under a confining plaster cast – more important in its inaccessibility than it really was. I wanted him to understand that real guns are dangerous and never to be used by anyone other than people trained to use them.

There was no denying it: good guys and bad guys existed everywhere in my young son’s world. Power Rangers fought bad guys with laser blasters. During the annual stroll through Evanston’s Custer St. Fair, we’d linger as he watched the “lucky” kids who took home the wooden rubber-band “shooters”. I realized that saying “no” to guns made him want them even more.

I still remember the first time I bought him a toy gun. We were at Target, and I had all three kids with me. My older son was seven and my youngest boy was two. None of my kids at that time got along. I was at the end of my rope. The younger son pointed to a Power Rangers laser blaster and I put two in our cart — one for each boy. I was elated that they’d play together but horrified that I’d caved.

I taught them that toy guns had a time and a place. Never pointed directly at anyone, never used to scare anyone. There were many moments when my rules were broken, and the guns were taken away. The concept of “play” and guns was never easy for me to justify…until I noticed how many meaningful conversations we’d have about them. Why do you think your brother got scared when you pointed that gun at him? What if that had been a real one and you’d shot him? What if you couldn’t bring your brother back? How does it feel when someone points a gun at you? What would you say if you saw someone pointing a toy gun at someone else’s head?  What else would you want for Christmas that doesn’t include a Nerf gun or bullets?

We have an arsenal of toy guns in our basement, but they come out less and less as the boys have grown (they’re now 16 and 10). These days, they’re rarely used unless the younger male cousins or the neighborhood boys are looking to play outdoors. Once, as a noisy Nerf war raged in front of the house with sponge bullets and boys hiding in bushes, my neighbor’s wife called and asked if I’d bring the boys in; her husband couldn’t bear to see young children engaged in gun-play after the recent Sandy Hook shootings. I could hear the neighbor’s husband sobbing in the background. I brought the boys in and talked to them about how upset our neighbor was. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” I said. “I’m the one that allowed toy guns. But,” I’d said, “you need to know how dangerous real guns are. Children were killed when someone used a real gun for a bad reason.” The boys were confused at first, then grew very quiet. They processed the situation and ask questions about gun violence in their 9-year-old words. I knew that their play had led to meaningful discussion.

There’s no sobbing around the Smith household when the guns are brought out.  The use of a machine to initiate discussions is ridiculous and unnecessary.  People do bad things, and they can do them with knives, hammers, guns, and all manner of tools.

Likewise, people do good things with all of the above.  Guns are what the theologians call adiaphorous.  They are neither good nor bad.  They just are.

As for the right time to converse about gun safety, we don’t need play time or toy guns.  Any time is the right time to discuss gun safety with children.  If you have guns around the house and you haven’t secured your weapons and trained your children on who handles them and who doesn’t, you’re irresponsible.  But then we don’t need a school teacher and play time to tell us that.

Prior: Hey Kids, Guns Are Cool!


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