Boys Will Be...

I'm not sure exactly why, but my son has recently developed an interest in guns. Both my wife and I carry concealed sometimes (with legal permits, of course), my wife in particular, but we have always taken pains not to have him aware of it (if only so he won't pipe up in public and say, "Mommy, will you take your gun out?"). The guns are locked out of sight and unloaded, separate from their ammo, except the firearms for night defense -- which are also locked out of sight in a safe, and in a condition where they can't be used without some knowledge of how they operate. The safe is sealed and locked every morning before he gets up, so I'm pretty sure that it's not my behavior that has caused this interest. He doesn't see me carrying a gun, in other words, or handling them, or whatever.

I'm not opposed to teaching him about them, just the opposite -- but he's only three. I thought swords would be enough for a while yet. And indeed, the other day we took a long walk, and he carried his wooden sword along. Every few feet, he'd stop and pretend to fight "another monster!" It's very endearing.

However, he has for some time also been picking up sticks that are kind of gun-shaped, and carrying them around. He makes a gun noise: "jugga-jugga!" I guess he got the idea from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, or The Lone Ranger, or one of the other adventure movies he likes to watch when he isn't watching Kipper the Dog.

He has also been begging me to buy him a toy gun. I resisted for a long while. Guns are not toys, I keep telling him; they are a serious business. Still, he's playing "guns" anyway with the sticks; and, I reflected, with a toy that had some semblance to how a real firearm operates, I could start teaching him firearms safety in an enviornment with no consequences if he screws up (e.g., "Don't point that at me!" won't cause anyone to get shot if he does anyway). By the time he's old enough, if I'm dilligent about it, he should know the rules of firearms safety as second nature. I hope, in other words, that I'm doing the right thing by encouraging his interest rather than creating a forbidden object to desire; and by taking the opportunity to teach him how to behave safely and with responsibility. Besides, I had toy guns as a kid.

I weighed and considered this for a long time. I finally made up my mind to go ahead with it, if he continued to show interest, yesterday afternoon. He was playing with his stick gun again. "I've got a gun, daddy!" he said.

I sighed, and pointed to his sword. "You've also got a sword," I replied. "What do you need a gun for anyway?"

He looked at me seriously, and said, "For shooting bad guys."

Well, I couldn't argue with that. It's the very reason I own guns.

So, since he was pleasant and good today, I offered to buy him a toy; and he insisted that he wanted a gun. So we went to WalMart, and he picked out a toy shotgun (the "Montana," of a line of toys that replicate old cowboy guns -- he passed up Star Wars stuff for this). I gave him the initial lecture about gun saftey (which I'm sure went right over his head, but by the time he's ten he'll be able to recite it backwards in his sleep). Then I gave him the thing, and took him home.

A few hours later, I'm up in my office working, and I can hear him operating the thing down below. He's in the bedroom, watching a movie. His mother's voice drifts up.

"Beowulf! Are you shooting Bambi?"

A pause while he answers.

"You're shooting Bambi's Mom?!?!?"

Well, uh, boys will be boys, you know.

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