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Atty. Ralph D. Sherman

130 West Main Street • New Britain, Connecticut 06052

tel. (860) 229-0213 • fax (860) 229-0235 • e-mail


Legal Opinion

December 1999

Toy guns:  Who needs them?

Every year, around Christmas and Chanuka, somebody gets on the soapbox about whether it's a good idea to buy toy guns for children. This year, it's my turn to volunteer my own opinion.

To do that, I have to start with the basics. If you own firearms, and you have small children in your home, then you have to keep your firearms locked up. Period.

Does that mean children shouldn't get a chance to see your guns? Absolutely not. There is a big difference between total prohibition and teaching that it's dangerous for children to handle guns without supervision.

My own children (ages 3 and 5) know two simple rules. First, they understand and follow Eddie Eagle's instructions about what a child should do if they find a firearm on their own. Second - and just as important - they know that if they want to examine any firearm in our house, all they have to do is ask.

Both girls have dry-fired rifles, removed magazines from pistols, and peered through scopes - all with empty guns and adult supervision. (The children know that we must check that a gun is empty before we examine it. I always ask them to remind me of this step.)

For my children, there is no mystery about guns that would tempt the children to try to sneak their way to handling a firearm. They know they can "see" a gun any time they like. They also know that they are still too small to handle a gun safely without an adult. (This becomes very obvious to a 40-pound child when she tries to shoulder a 10-pound rifle.)

What does this have to do with toys?

I'm not a psychologist, but I know what I see: The children who clamor most for toy guns are the children whose parents favor a total ban on guns. There are no guns in the home, and the parents are unable to do anything to satisfy the children's normal curiosity about objects they see every day on TV, in movies, and in the holsters of police officers. These children would love to get their hands on real guns, but that's impossible; toy guns are the next best thing.

Our children own one toy gun, a lever-action "pop" gun that we found in our shrubbery. They don't play with it much, for two reasons. Their general curiosity about guns is satisfied by their experiences with real guns. And when they want to use a "gun" for play, almost any object will do. They have used everything from marker pens to barrettes to defend themselves from imaginary home invaders and other assorted criminals.

To me, it doesn't make sense to buy the children a toy that they really won't use. So toy guns are not on my shopping list - but not because I disapprove.

Happy holidays.


Copyright 1999 by Ralph D. Sherman

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