We've seen a LOT of talk about gun violence, gun control, gun owners rights, and frankly, I find it all a little overwhelming as a parent, because my son loves guns.
That's right, he loves guns. Lego guns, laser-sighted Nerf guns, old-timey toy cowboy pistols. Every holiday at my home is an exercise in my son making a case to get the newest toy gun he's heard of. He's not just a toy gun enthusiast, he's a toy gun connoisseur.
That's why every time I hear about something else involving guns I go into dissection mode. The latest incident to parse through the Mom-glasses, right on the heels of Seattle and King County's first gun buyback in 20 years, is a news item out of Cape Cod, in which a 5-year-old faces suspension after building a gun out of Legos. The title of this piece is pulled from a comment posted on that article.
It wasn't long ago that the dangers of carrying anything that looks like a gun--even if it's made of Legos--was highlighted here in Washington when a resident of a developmentally disabled adult group home who pointed a Lego gun was shot at by a King County Sheriff's deputy in Woodinville.
The reaction of threatening suspension for building a Lego gun is on the face of it frustrating, because I can see my son doing the same thing at the age of 5. Now, as a second-grader, he's already had to become well-versed in school policy about weapons. No weapons with your Halloween costume, etc., etc.
Does it stop him from choosing each year's Halloween costume strictly based on how big of a toy weapon it requires? No. Does it stop him from wanting to buy custom-made Lego weapons for his minifigures (seriously, there are websites for that)? No.
Do I let him do those things? Yes.
Following the Woodinville incident, I expressed to a KCSO spokesperson that I worry about my son pointing a Nerf gun at the wrong person--conversations about not playing with toy guns in cars are frequent and common at our house--and she told me that sometimes criminals have been known to paint bright orange or green on actual guns to make them appear to be toys. This may confirm my need to talk to my son about this, but it doesn't make me feel better.
Many parents take the approach of banning toy gunplay altogether, and I admit I would have said I was in that camp before my son was born. We instead addressed it by teaching him that it wasn't appropriate to point them at people, and his Grandpa, who likes guns, donated a real paper target for him to point his gun at. His aunt works for KCSO, and has explained to my son that she's had to use her gun exactly zero times since she's been on the force.
Why did I decide to allow toy guns in the first place? Simply put, he was born into the most military culture the US has seen in years. His heroes aren't bad guys with guns, they are soldiers and police officers, and how can I discourage my son from emulating the good guys? Like it or lump it, guns are a part of both occupations. You should see his eyes light up when we visit the Air Force Base and he sees a soldier coming in from exercises, dressed in camouflage and packing serious heat.
It's also hard for me to reconcile the 700-plus guns turned in at the Seattle event when we have heard from local gun dealers that following recent tragedies around the country and talk of stricter controls that they've had a run on guns. Would getting those guns, destined to be melted down and into rebar, into the hands of responsible gun owners who want them be so bad?
Michael Marinos, the owner of Bigg Dogg Firearms in Issaquah, told Patch recently that if his business was selling guns right now (he's currently searching for a storefront), guns would be flying off the shelves.
"The major manufacturers; Winchester, Remington, Glock, Springfield, etc. cannot keep up with demand," Marinos said in an email to Patch. Marinos said that some of the manufacturers he spoke to at a recent gun expo, the SHOT show in Las Vegas, say they are backlogged 6-8 months with orders.
Obviously, the folks going to gun shops to buy guns can purchase them legally, and most people I've seen commenting on Patch support their right to do so even while expressing concern over how to deal with the issues we face as a country.
It would be nice if there was one simple answer, like forbidding children from playing cops and robbers on school grounds, but there isn't.
What really makes me shake my own head is that so many people do seem to see it as black and white, so much so that a 5-year-old building a Lego gun is apparently seen as an offense rather than as a teachable moment. How can we educate kids if we cut off the conversation by saying no guns, no gun talk, ever?
There are lots of statistics on both sides that do little more than point out that the number of guns in a country is not necessarily the issue, at least not as much as our attitudes toward them.
I'd love to see a real conversation about how we can change the dialogue so we can address the very real issue of gun violence, especially senseless and seemingly inexplicable shootings like some of the recent mass shootings, without resorting to sound bites by not only media, but also by various groups with different ideas about how to address the problem.
Tell us: Is there any way to address this without going to extremes?