Guns and Glory

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.

Clark's Deer

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:

Nerf Collection nerf-n-strike-vulcan

The Nerf Longstrike Sniper

The Nerf Longstrike Sniper

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.

12 responses to “Guns and Glory

  1. Thanks for your thoughtfulness and powerful writing, Jan. Just last month two teenagers (best friends) in our neighborhood ended up dead from self-inflicted (though no one knows how) gunshots. It was devastating to the parents and neighborhood. And yet too common for us to just be passive about the issue with our kids. The issue not being guns or no guns. The issue being, like you said, teaching kids to value human life, and eschewing violence.

  2. I never thought of restricting fake gun use in the house. Maybe it’s because I have all girls still 🙂 On a different tangent… I just really despise that people think the answer to less homicides is to make purchasing guns and ammo illegal. People will find guns whether they are legal or not. If no one has a concealed weapon then no one can stop or protect themselves against crazy people that come into elementary schools and movie theaters killing everyone in sight. And I found this scripture recently in mosiah 10:1 which talks about obtaining weapons during peaceful times. Now is the time, because we don’t know what kind of war we will be in. But I love that you emphasized teaching our children. Because guns are not evil. The people behind them are. I guess I’m a real Texan now! I didn’t use to feel this way about guns either.

  3. Thank you! We have no violent video games in our home, we have 3 boys age 8-16 but they know not even to ask. It is crazy to me how many members think it is OK to delight in the shedding of blood, yes it is only “virtually” but it still is delighting in it.

  4. Wikipedia is not a good source for accurate #’s on gun violence. Wikipedia is leftist sight that skews toward anti-gun, anti-freedom & anti-FAITH leanings.The rest of this article is good.

  5. wow, thank you so much. I have been feeling like a loner about this. It seems like everyone I know is okay with guns as toys. I don’t mind if my son really wants a gun someday, but I don’t think I should teach him that guns are toys! So thank you. I needed validation 🙂

  6. As a pro gun, combat wounded Veteran with 3 boys being raised with strong LDS morals, I actually found your blog on this subject, agreeable to my senses. A firearm is a tool. We do not let children play with chainsaws. When the time is right, we teach our matured young men or women, how to correctly use a chainsaw and be safe with such. I hunted as a youth, I was taught how to use rifles and handguns fairly early in life. I can attest it played a huge part in saving my life in combat. For the most part of my childhood, I was limited to what toy guns I was allowed to play with. We didn’t have video games or Nerf. I do not allow military simulation video games in our home. Mostly because I lived thru the real scenarios. Because of my pro gun stance, I honestly didn’t expect to end up agreeing with you. I will say you are spot on, as long as you are not educating that guns are evil. People are evil. Guns do not go off by themselves. A person causes that action. Firearms DO protect us. Firearms DO provide us a tool to get meat on the table. Firearms had a SIGNIFICANT part in the history and defence of OUR FAITH & the Constitution. Lastly, don’t quote as fact, anything from Wikipedia.

  7. In short, guns aren’t bad, but killing people (or animals) with a gun (or anything else) is bad. And so is creating a culture that glorifies it. Thank you

    • I completely agree that creating a culture that glorifies gun violence is wrong. If you believe that killing animals with firearms is wrong then how are people supposed to survive? Killing people as in murder, is an evil act. There is a time and place in this world that one may have to defend yourself, your family, or even your faith and your country. The Old Testament, New Testament and more so the Book of Mormon, bears witness to these acts. Do you feel that a soldier is a murderer or is he guiltless for defending a cause? How many times has our very existence needed to be defended with a Firearm?. My boys do hunt but for the sole purpose of feeding ourselves. We follow the council that was given to us, by our Heavenly Father thru our prophet in the Word of Wisdom. To declare that all manner of killing animals or humans is incorrect. Many of our Brothers, Sisters and Prophets, past and present, have battled evil in War and hunted game to feed others.

  8. “Administer in the spirit of love and patience
    to your husbands and to your children; guard
    the little ones; do not permit them to imbibe
    the spirit of intolerance or hatred to any nation
    or to any people; keep firearms out of their
    hands; do not allow them to play at war nor
    to find amusement in imitating death in battle;
    inculcate the spirit of loyalty to country and
    flag, but help them to feel that they are soldiers
    of the Cross and that if they must needs take
    up arms in the defense of liberty, of country
    and homes they shall do so without rancor or
    bitterness. . . . Teach the peaceable things of the
    kingdom [and] look after the needy more diligently
    than ever.”

    Williams, and Julina L. Smith,
    “Epistle to the Relief Society
    Concerning These War Times,”
    Relief Society Magazine, July 1917,

    Taken from Daughters In My Kingdom, a book of scripture recently released for women. This passage occurs on pg. 64 and is a quote by the Presidency of the women of the Latter-Day Saint Church addressing the First World War.

    I have struggled with how to treat guns in my household (as my husband is a hunter) and found great relief in this statement. I believe it is true, and love to see someone else living it’s precepts in their home.

    Here is a credible source for Travis:

  9. I have to say I disagree with you. I think even children can differentiate between a toy and the real thing. After all, we give them toy hammers, toy drills, toy stoves and still expect them to know how that the real things are off limits. Most toy guns, especially Nerf, bare little resemblance to real guns. The same goes with video games. I have played my share of video games and I can most certainly differentiate video game violence from real world violence. Now I will add that I do disagree with video games like Grand Theft Auto where you are committing illegal acts. However, war games or RPGs where you are fighting monsters I see nothing wrong with. If you look at the mass shooting statistics from 1976 – 2010 you will see that there is no increase just random cluster throughout the years.

  10. I am appalled by that picture of your son and the dead deer. If you say you are trying to make him value life, then he shouldn’t smile into the camera with a dead animal proudly holding up its head. I also absolutely disagree with your stance on banning play guns but allowing them to use a gun (“they can pratice shooting at a target”), that’s such a double standard. Children can distinguish between toy and the real thing (when they’re old enough at least). You maybe be right about teaching them values but allowing them around guns is more dangerous than you might want to believe.

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