Why a suburban mum gave her kids’ toy guns the bullet
Have your heard about the proposed Australian buyback for toy guns?
It’s the brainchild of Adelaide mother Sam Paior, and it has sparked fierce debate across the country. Last week’s Sandy Hook massacre reminded Sam how much she hates to see her two sons, Ben and Bailey, playing with guns.
The boys had a few replica guns they’d bought at the Royal Adelaide Show. So Sam had the idea of a buyback for her sons’ toy guns. If they wanted to, they could hand over their plastic weapons, and she’d give them $5 for each one.
I think it’s a great idea because I also really dislike toy guns. It’s the way the kids hold them, the way they move when they’re “hunting” each other, and the aggression they adopt when they’re trying to “kill” each other.
Now, I don’t think for a second that having a gun is going to turn my eight-year-old into a serial killer. As I wrote last week, I’m much more worried about US kids playing with the real thing.
But it’s the symbolism of toy guns that really bothers me. I just don’t like what the guns represent, and I don’t like the sort of games kids tend to play when they’re holding them.
If it’s been a while since you last bought a toy gun, and you’re imagining kids in the backyard going “pow, pow” with little cap pistols, then think again. Most toy guns these days are absolutely huge and include life-like features.
The sales spiel for the new-model Nerf Vortex Vigilon - with “rapid reloads and rapid fire technology” - talks about “having enough ammo on hand” which “can mean the difference between winning and losing” on missions.
And there’s the Nerf Vortex Praxis “pump-action, 10-disc blaster” with “removable 10-disc magazine for maximum firepower with minimum reloading time”.
Admittedly, most of these wannabe weapons come in lurid plastic colours and are unlikely to ever be mistaken for the real thing. Ever since a child in the US was killed by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real gun, most toy manufacturers and sellers have policies to ensure no toy gun resembles an actual gun.
But the internet has opened up the toy gun market, and our kids now have access to replica toy guns which look more like life-like.
I do think, however, that even plastic Nerf guns that shoot soft foam bullets give kids an early introduction to gun culture and encourage aggressive war games.
Sam’s idea for the toy gun buyback, which she posted on her Facebook page, quickly went viral and was picked up by the mainstream media. Immediately, her Facebook page was hacked by abusive trolls and gun nuts raging against the idea.
Sam, who I should admit used to be a friend of mine 20 years ago when we went to uni together, had to remove more than 400 abusive posts. The group she has formed, which is planning an event in February, now has a private Facebook site to guard against future attacks. It is such a pity.
What a sad world we live in when a mother, who just wanted to educate her sons about the dangers of guns, and start a meaningful dialogue with other kids about what’s happened in the United States, is attacked by vitriolic trolls.
As Sam explained, for her peaceful efforts she has been branded a “twat, an imbecile, a f****** retard, a moron, an idiot, a nutter and more”.
Facebook posters have called her pathetic and “another do-gooder and bible basher”.
“Why not try and buy back spoons next because they make people fat?” said one.
And a man, who is an armed guard, said she should not terrify her children about guns but instead “teach them to respect and safely interact with them”.
What rot. Guns are terrifying. Children shouldn’t be taught to safely interact with them; they should be taught never to go near them.
This sort of nasty abuse shows us how aggressive our society has become. It’s not like Sam was calling for all toy guns to be banned; she just wanted to find a way to reach out to other anti-gun parents and help them educate their kids.
I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take a stand and make a link between toy guns and the violent gun-loving culture that’s causing so much damage in the United States and elsewhere.
Scientists are divided over whether violent media and toys lead to actual violence and aggression in children. But many studies have found that prolonged and sustained exposure to violent games and media desensitises children to real violence.
It doesn’t make them violent, but it makes them accept violence as more commonplace.
In my mind there’s enough violence out there: just watch the nightly news and look at the trolls above. I, for one, don’t want to do anything more to encourage an acceptance of aggression among my kids.
And so, will I be buying back my kids’ guns this Christmas? You bet I will.
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