The Weight of a Gun

My 5 year old son, Carver, has been begging for months for a Nerf gun. Today is no different. He even brought it up to my Mom, “I’m more of a Nerf gun guy, not a real gun guy because I don’t want to hurt anyone.” He comes home from school with talks of birthday parties, he says his best friend promised to buy him a Nerf gun for his birthday.

We aren’t much of a gun family. Craig has a gun, he’s had it since high school. Craig used to work in sporting goods in high school at Mills Fleet Farm. He loved selling guns but only ever had one. It’s broken apart in three separate pieces and even stored in different locations around the house so there’s no chance of the boys accidentally finding it. He’s shot it once with my brothers the entire time we’ve been together. Craig went hunting one year but didn’t get anything.

I was on the trapshooting team in high school. I wasn’t any good and I never shot my own gun, I always borrowed from someone. I’ve shot trap with my brothers who have grown to be gun enthusiasts. I was even pretty young the first time I shot a gun. Craig and I have taken hunters safety classes. It’s not like we weren’t around guns when we were younger, but we just aren’t a gun family.

This doesn’t stop Carver from longing for a Nerf gun. It’s been a hard no from me for several years now. Honestly, we don’t even have squirt guns. Something just doesn’t sit right with me about handing a kid a toy gun until they can understand the weight of a real gun.

The weight of a gun in our country is heavy. The weight of a gun carries thousands of mass shootings that seem more and more common every day. When I first thought of writing this post, I was mulling over the shooting that happened in Buffalo, New York. By the time I had collected my thoughts, there was another shooting in Uvalde, Texas. As I sat down to type this, there’s a shooting in a hospital in Tulsa, OK.

I can hear the comments now, Now Kalissa, giving your kid a toy gun isn’t like giving them a real gun.You’re right, but I wonder how old Salvador Rolando Ramos was when he was first given a toy gun. After all, he was only 18 when he murdered nineteen students and two teachers last week. He was hardly an adult himself. Did he have to sit through hunter’s safety class? Did his Mom and Dad take him to the gun range and teach him to shoot? Did he get a Nerf gun for Christmas?

Well now Kalissa, just because you give your kid a toy gun doesn’t mean they’ll become a mass murderer.When Payton Gendron’s parents let him play with his first gun, do you think they intended for him, at 18 years old to enter a supermarket and murder 13 black people? Do you think his parents, knowing what they now know, would have ever handed over the toy gun in the first place?

It’s just a toy!” Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was shot by police for playing with a toy gun in Cleveland, Ohio. He was pointing what was reported to dispatch as a “pistol” at random people in a park when someone called 911. He certainly didn’t understand the weight a gun can carry, especially when the color of your skin makes you 3.23 times more likely to be shot by police according to a study released by researchers at Harvard. How can my son understand the privilege’s he holds because of the color of his skin? How can he understand that even being under suspicion for having a gun could get you killed?

My kids played with guns and turned out just fine. The Columbine High School Massacre was not the first school shooting in our country, but laid the blueprint for many school shootings to come. I was 4 years old in 1999. I can vividly remember watching shooting after shooting play out on the Today show while I ate my breakfast before I went to school in the morning. I’ve never not had to practice an active shooter drill. I would worry about what would happen if I was in the bathroom during a lockdown. I’m a part of what is being called the “Columbine Generation,” I’ve never known a world without school shootings. Things have changed, things are continuing to change. What used to be acceptable child’s play is now an introduction to a world of gun violence.

As long as they are taught how to use it safely, there isn’t a risk. Tell that to my best friend who lost her cousin to suicide. Tell that to the family of a young man in our community who lost his life in an accidental shooting while surrounded by his friends. What about the 4 year old from our own school district was unsupervised when he fatally shot himself in the head. These aren’t just statistics about some far away land, these are people in my community. Iowa ranked 20th in 2016 in accidental shootings involving children.

As a grown woman, I can’t even process the weight a gun bears in our country, why would I be in a rush to lay that burden on my 5 year old?

In conclusion, it’s just a Nerf gun. It’s just a super soaker. Yet, with every mass shooting, with every accidental shooting, with every hate crime, with every man or woman who takes their own life, with every officer involved shooting, with every young man or woman who lays down their life for our country, the weight of guns, whether they are plastic or shoot water, or shoot ammunition, becomes heavier and heavier.

For a mother to take pause before handing that weight over to her child, isn’t an overreaction. It’s the only way I know how to protect him in a world where going to school, going to work, going to the supermarket, or even a 12 year old boy, playing with a toy gun in a public park isn’t safe anymore.

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11 Comments

  1. Annie
    June 2, 2022 / 1:37 pm

    AMEN!!!!

  2. Ellie
    June 2, 2022 / 2:18 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I’m old enough to be your grandmother but age hasn’t given me any more insight into how to solve our nations gun problems. The only thing I think age has done for me is give me more people to worry about how to protect them . If I had a child or grandchild with ambitions to be a teacher or in healthcare I’m afraid I’d be fearful. Yet it seems even grocery shopping is no longer safe. I hope you are ready for the feared blowback from those who will vilify anyone who suggests there is a problem with guns in our country. I’m afraid the emperor has no clothes.

  3. Elle
    June 2, 2022 / 2:29 pm

    Well written. Thank you for sharing your “Mom perspective” on this issue. I don’t have children but dozens of nieces/nephews, grands and the next generation started just this weekend. I can’t imagine the weight of this world on young parents let alone the children growing up in this world.

    My world of guns? When I was 14yo, my brother came in from hunting thinking his gun was empty and in safety. It went off and the bullet shattered a few feet away from me in the basement. My 1st call-back case of my operating room career just weeks after my 20th birthday, was an attempted suicide gunshot wound to the face. Half the face was gone and we spent most of a day cleaning it up for future reconstruction. This man was a patient in our OR for nearly 5 years and I scrubbed many of those procedures as well. My oldest brother died of suicide using one of his son’s antique pistols inherited from his other grandfather.

    So I hate guns. I hate guns of any type/shape/firepower. I completely support weapons for hunting and for self-protection with plenty of training, registration, background checking etc. They must be secured in a gun safe to protect any non-owner from getting it.

    Many think I’m an idiot. I’ve had people tell me “get over it, your experiences are a stupid thing to hang on to”. You must own a gun. It’s crazy not to.

    Um, OK. So someone who has a fear of guns should have one in hand. Nope, not this girl. Thought I would share my stance since you so openly shared yours!

    I respect your parenting. You are not alone in the concern of the influence of toy guns.

    Take good care!

  4. Joy
    June 2, 2022 / 5:01 pm

    Our kids never had guns when they were young. Some have guns to hunt with and protection. I just don’t like kids pointing a play gun at a friend and or parent and say bam bam! It’s not funny to me! My dad had a gun to shoot unwanted animals that were sick. So there was never a toy gun. Later they could have a petal/BB guns when were older but they were not allow to shoot birds! Our son shot a bunny one day and came to the house and was all upset because he thought he killed it. I told him the BB gun probably just stunned it. Yup he was gone when he went back.. I’m not sure he ever shot another, uti he did hunt pheasants with friends after taking a gun safety course. I’m with you! No toy guns

  5. Debbie B
    June 2, 2022 / 5:46 pm

    I like how you are handling this issue. My 2 boys were never allowed guns while growing up, even toy guns. They have always scared me. Now they both have guns of their own and handle them well. One is a Marine who became an excellent shooter and the other likes to hunt for game birds. I agree that giving a child a toy gun is a heavy responsibility and I don’t think the child can handle all that “weight”. Thank you for posting this.

  6. DLK
    June 2, 2022 / 8:08 pm

    I’m with you 100%.
    I was never comfortable when my kids used sticks for guns and always talked to them when I caught them doing it.

  7. Pete
    June 3, 2022 / 1:36 am

    Truly, one of the most insightful viewpoints I’ve read in a long time….thank you for your courage and love for your family.

  8. Lynne Nicholson
    June 3, 2022 / 11:01 am

    I’m in the UK where we have strict gun laws and the majority of our police force is unarmed. The only guns I’ve handled are an air pistol my dad owned, and those guns at funfairs.

    When Dad taught me to shoot his pistol (which I’ve no idea where he kept it) he was very strict on safety and only one child was allowed to be with him. The others had to be in the house. Since my sister didn’t find it when clearing out my Mum’s stuff (Mum died 23 years after Dad) I’m guessing it was either sold on or given in to the police years before.

    Dad had served in the Army (National Service was compulsory when he was a young man) and had a great respect for guns.

  9. Hedy
    June 3, 2022 / 12:53 pm

    Your blog today was very thoughtful. It’s very obvious that there is a serious problem in the US now regarding the use of weapons. I live in the St. Louis area which is the #1 murder capital of the US. My ex-husband was murdered by a young man who shot him in the head. I have 3 sons and many grandsons who have used weapons for sport shooting, hunting deer. When my sons were young, they played with guns, but this was over 55 years ago. Now I know I will never buy a gun for my great grandsons, life is different than it was. My heart aches thinking of the parents who had their children murdered in their own schools, a place we used to think was safe. I just don’t understand the greed our lawmakers have that they are willing to sacrifice children for money. And believe me, the NRA is paying big bucks for their compliance. I have no hope for the United States today.

  10. Susan the Farm Quilter
    June 3, 2022 / 2:50 pm

    You have to do what you feel is right for your family. I’m more concerned about what is going on with our mental health in this country. With the events of the last two and a half years, our mental health is even more important. A gun is just a tool, like a rock or a car, and can be used for good or evil, depending on whose hand it is in. I remember using sticks as guns to play in the forests of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with my brother way before we had seen a gun in real life. Our dad taught us to shoot a pellet gun when we were about 8, and I have no idea where he kept it (or his dad’s 38 Special) when I was growing up – we never went hunting for them. I remember going out shooting with my boyfriend in high school…I shot a lizard that was about 12 inches long with a .22. Perfect shot, through its head, but it twitched and freaked me out. That is the last thing I willingly killed. Hubby and some of the kids go hunting and get deer every year (when you live on a farm, it is easy to hunt the farm), I’ll happily stay home. I must say, I do find the gutting interesting and like to inspect and identify all the organs – I always like dissecting things in biology. How everything fits together so perfectly within such a small space, with such precision, always reminds me how awesome God is. With one kiddo in the military and one in law enforcement, guns are well known and respected in the family.

  11. June 3, 2022 / 3:31 pm

    I helped raise my 3 grandsons and my husband is a hunter plus we lived on a farm with coyotes attacking our lambs and chickens. In Canada, you don’t get to own a gun or buy ammunition without taking a hunter training/gun safety course (which my husband taught) and apply to to the government for a special license. Our daughters and grandson’s were taught the importance of safety with guns and that they are deadly, serious weapons and at 12 years my husband gave them a lesson on an air pistol, shooting at cans so that they could understand the power and needed safety when around a gun. We also emphasized that to be able to use any gun, they had to take the course and learn everything about safety.
    But then, after reading your words this morning, I started thinking about the boys when they were young and had their water guns and nerf guns and played around the house and in the yard. I did make sure they understood that you don’t get to shoot water at someone to be mean, only for fun and only if they are ok with it. I did talk about eye safety and unless all are playing the game, you don’t get to sneak up on someone and shoot water or a foam “bullet” at someone. It was a summer activity and mostly outside and I honestly never thought about the implication of making them want to shoot someone with a real gun.
    My biggest concern/worry was with the video games they played on their X-box as they became addicted to video games. When it had an age suggestion on the game, I think parents need to adhere to that and not let them play these games. I also think parents need to watch these games and see just how violent they are.
    When I was a kid, we played with cap guns. and again, I don’t think there was a transference to shooting a real gun? Parents must take some responsibility for teaching children that guns kill or seriously injure and part of the job of raising kids is to make sure kids understand the implication of all activities and potential for hurting someone else… even throwing rocks has potential for injury. I also think there is a huge difference between rifles, shotguns, hand guns and semi automatic weapons and for the life of me, cannot understand why you can walk into a store in the USA and buy any of those, without training and government issued permits… and why would anyone need a semi automatic weapon? As a Canadian, I see all these shootings in the USA and wonder why there is no other country in the world with this problem? So very sad and I don’t understand the concept of guns meaning freedom? Good luck in your deliberations and maybe you need to talk to some of the other parents and see what they are thinking?

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