When my kid brother was young, I mean still young enough to be a serious pest, he created several characters that he actually became when he played. One of them was a cowboy named “Pardner.” No, Roger wasn’t much flakier than any other little brother … in fact as an adult he became a fairly good actor. Anyway, that little kid was even more proud of his silvery six-gun than I was of my pair of Lone Ranger pearl-handled revolvers.
All the kids back then had toy guns and those who couldn’t afford to buy one made one. Mom’s broom handle with a nail in it for a trigger made a pretty nifty rifle. We could defend the fort against attacking Indians with a revolver if we had to, but you needed a rifle if you were going to protect the beaches against invading Nazis. None of these guns made a noise, mind you. The authentic exploding cartridge sound had to come from the kid himself. “Bang!” was for nerds who didn’t know what a gun should sound like. No real gun ever went, “Bang!” “TF-F-F-F-F!” was a favorite and “KH-H-H-H-H!” was a popular standby. Some guys could even do ricochets which were more like, “CHI-CHI-OH-N-N-N!” It was really a complicated sound and my friend Russ was the best at doing that one.
We had pretty active imaginations in those days. We needed them. Creativity meant kid survival. There were no Play Stations, cell phones, computers, DVDs or anything ‘techie’. We didn’t have television, so the only reality shows had to do with leaving the toilet seat up or getting a “C” in math. My point is, despite all the gunplay, horseplay and even the occasional fist fight, none of us turned out to be mass murderers, terrorists or bank robbers. In fact, most of us went on to become semi-model citizens. Some even honorably served our country … like Russ who was killed in Vietnam by a gun that made its own sound and fired real bullets. But that didn’t happen because he played with toy guns or developed a dark side due to dangerous childhood influences. It happened because some other guy loved his family and was passionate about defending the things he believed in, the same as my friend. He had no way of knowing that Russ was probably able to make that ricochet sound better than he could.
Forrest Gump said that “Stupid is as stupid does.” Enter State Rep. Scott Saiki, who is either a Gump disciple or has been spending too much time in the hot Hawaiian sun without a hat. Mr. Saiki is actually sponsoring a bill making it a crime to sell or offer a toy gun to a kid. If you break the ban, you get 90 days in jail and a hefty fine. Even more incredible, despite a complete lack of evidence indicating that toy guns turn kids into criminals or violent adults, some of his colleagues are actually listening to his gibberish … as are several legislators nursing their own neuroses in a couple of other states! It just seems to me that decisions like this are the responsibility of parents, not political bureaucrats.
Want some honest-to-goodness sources of violence? Take a look at the games, movies and T.V. shows kids are watching these days … graphic violence ‘rules’! Even many of the popular commercials feature heavy doses of violence, and cartoons are downright brutal. Remember the fast-healing character who got blown up or walked off a cliff, only to come back just fine in the next scene to do it again? So what do we do, ban childhood … or is there just some insidious plot against squirt guns? Oh by the way, Hawaii wants to loosen its restrictions on marijuana, so if the legislators have their way, it’ll be easier for a kid to get high than to get wet!
Rather than feeding some politician’s paranoia and turning guns, toy or otherwise, into a compelling mystery for kids maybe we should try teaching them how to responsibly exercise their Second Amendment rights. Paranoid may sometimes be good thinking but I’m afraid this isn’t one of those times. The Greeks wisely said, “Nothing in excess” … Forrest Gump already weighed in on the subject.
If producing violent adults is honestly our fear, the best bet might simply be to shut down the computer, toss away the Game Boy, pry the T.V. remote from a kid’s hand … and send him outside to defend the backyard, making the wild West safe for decent law-abiding citizens.
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