The first time my son saw a gun really doing its job was in November, 2011. My husband took him hunting and shot a deer. Clark saw the bouncing, running animal suddenly stop dead and fall down. He saw my husband cut it open, quarter and skin it, and then pack it on ice to bring home. He was five years old.
When they finally came home, at close to 10:00 pm, Clark looked dazed. I asked him, “Did you have a fun time hunting?” And he responded, “Yeah, it was good.” Pause. “I think I want to go to bed now, okay?” He was tired, and overwhelmed by the blaring reality of death. The next day he helped us process every bit of meat we could get from the animal, and we ate from that doe for the next year. We talked about how grateful we were for the deer giving its life so that we could eat, and how Heavenly Father had created the earth for us to use with thanksgiving and respect. Perhaps because of this experience, or perhaps because of his nature, he’s never tried to play with my husband’s guns, nor does he even try to pretend with toy guns. He knows how serious guns are, and at this age, he wants nothing to do with them.
Contrast the deadly seriousness of guns with this:
Yes, maybe I am picking on Nerf, but with good reason. Nerf is such a loveable, squishy and playful word. It conjures up happy times in the backyard running around with cousins. It makes the guns seem as innocent and fun as the foamy football that was its predecessor. Toy guns trivialize the reality of lethal guns. They turn war and violence into games. And at a certain age, when kids get bored with toy guns, they move inside. To the X-Box. Now they can do more grown-up gun games, like Call of Duty and Halo. Of course, they are just games. Games that Anders Breivik used as “simulation training” before going on a shooting spree in Norway. Games that create a violent subculture in millions of teenagers. First player shoot-em-up video games have taken guns and violence to an appalling level of casualness. “Playing” at violence divorces it’s lethality from reality.
In the past several year, mass shootings have become more and more common in the U.S.–it seems like they pop out every few months now, where they were more shocking and rare only a year or two ago. But the number of victims of mass shootings is almost insignificant compared with the number of gun-related homicides and suicides each year. Wikipedia cites “In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the United States.” That is over 30,000 deaths in one year, in one country. In the 9 years we were fighting in Iraq (2003-2012), there were 4,486 deaths of U.S. soldiers. (Of course there were thousands and thousands of deaths of civilians and “bad guys”). Spreading out the domestic 30,000 gun-inflicted deaths over 12 months– we would be done with the Iraq War at the end of February. It’s apocalyptic.
So, parents–this is where we step in. We don’t wait for government to enact laws or finally figure out how to do gun control that every one is satisfied with. They can’t make it go away by taxing violent games at a higher rate. There is no soul or morality in the solution so it won’t work. The only way to stem this tide of violence that threatens to engulf our culture, society and civilization is to teach our children to be kind and respect human life. To teach them that guns are tools that are incredibly powerful and lethal, not toys to play with. This is the point in time where we need to start saying: “The natural man is an enemy to God” instead of “boys will be boys”. We cannot afford to keep encouraging the natural, violent man. By the time they are 8 or 12, it is probably too late–they are wired for guns and glory.
We need to start teaching our children when they are tiny. At our house, there is a severely punishable rule that you never, ever pretend shoot any person. Not with a toy, not with a finger. They get a stern rebuke and some time in the corner when that happens because I want it to be clear that it is never acceptable for them to look at someone with such malice (real or pretend) that they want to kill them, even for a game. If they truly are interested in (toy) guns, then they can practice shooting at a target.
As they get older, don’t allow toy guns or violent games. Period. If they resist and fight you about it, try something like “Cradle 2 Grave” which is a class offered by Temple University Hospital (in Philadelphia) by a couple of trauma doctors. They take kids on a pretty in-depth and graphic tour of what gunshots really do and how hard it is to recover. From their website: “During the program, young visitors are shown realistic images of violent injuries and encouraged to reflect on the value their lives hold for their families and friends. Here, there is no soundtrack. There are no special effects. There is only the grim truth about the ways that something as small as a bullet can lay waste to flesh, bone and dreams.” You may not want to travel to Philly just for that (you should also travel to Philly for the food), but I bet any hospital trauma unit would be interested in showing kids the realities of gun violence if you called ahead and made some arrangements.
Moses 8:28-30 explains the state of the world before the flood:
28 The earth was corrupt before God, and it was filled with violence.
29 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.
30 And God said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth.
Come on, parents. We must do this, no one else will.