gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

Gun control at my house


At the risk of making enemies by taking a strong political stand, let me explain that at my house, we are decidedly anti-guns. We are not hunters, and we believe that if you own a gun, there’s a good chance that gun will end up hurting you or your family.
Naturally, like parents everywhere, we try to bring our children up to share our views, or at least to understand them. So I decided not to let my now 5 year old son play with toy guns, which broke his little heart. He embarked on a campaign to change the status quo, and enlisted every passing stranger in his battle. Enter the man who built our jungle gym.
My son loves workers and artisans. The dirtier and smellier they are, the more likely he is to fling his little arms around their legs and declare his love. The jungle gym guy was an instant hit. Unfortunately, he also took it upon himself to tell Thomas that if he had a gun, he could use it to shoot birds.
Thomas shared this with me with great glee. He seemed to think it would address all my concerns. I knew it was time for a mother-son talk, and took him for a walk, his hand tucked in mine.
I explained that if he shot birds, they would bleed and feel pain. I used the analogy of his pets – our dogs and cats – and asked him if he would want them to bleed and be hurt. I explained that when guns are used to shoot animals and birds, it is not fun, but painful and bloody. (He understands blood from his frequently scraped knees).
Eventually, I looked down at him and said, “Do you understand what Mommy is telling you, love?”
“Oh yes,” said Thomas, with an emphatic nod to his head. “But you mustn’t worry any more, Mommy. When I get a gun, I’ll only use it to shoot people.”
I think the expression that people use is “parenting fail”?

On a more serious note, I recently relaxed about guns a bit. I first allowed water pistols, and then they got fancy space guns as a party favour, and I did not have the heart to say “no”. But I have to be honest, I regret it. I think maybe if you have a really gentle sort of boy, a toy gun does no harm. But my sweet boy also has a streak of aggression, and with that gun in his hand, it comes to the fore. I’ve hidden the gun at the bottom of his fluffy toys but I’m not quite brave enough to throw it away. After all, he might shoot me . . .


8 thoughts on “Gun control at my house

  1. Buy him an airgun to shoot Hadidas !

  2. Oh, dear. I hope you “stick to your guns” on this one. Nothing wrong with throwing away a toy, and I agree with you 100% that toy guns and kids absolutely don’t mix. It wasn’t something my son was interested in, but sometimes when we had friends over there would be play fighting and pretend guns made of sticks from the back yard. I was – and am – so anti-gun that I always put an end to that right away. Home and family should be one place where kids don’t have to deal with our nation’s violent gun culture. You’re on the right track.
    Amy at

  3. Okay, upon reading more of your posts, I now realize we do not live in the same nation, so I apologize for unintentionally maligning S.A. The U.S.A., however, I will feel free to malign. 🙂 – Amy

    • Don’t worry Amy – we have a lot of the same issues as the US, with the exception that guns are less easily available to the ordinary citizen here thankfully; and we have a lot of gun violence but less gun “accidents”. I do think that in any country where guns are around – US or SA – it’s important that we give our kids a strong message about where we stand on the issue!

  4. “…we believe that if you own a gun, there’s a good chance that gun will end up hurting you or your family.”

    Despite some claims by highly dubious studies, normal law abiding and reasonably intelligent people are not more likely to hurt themselves with guns in their home. Nor are they more likely to commit homicide or suicide with them. Now if you are a criminal, a psychotic, or a drug dealer then your odds go up quite a bit (but I am believe that probably does not describe you).

    Americans use firearms somewhere between 100,000 and 2,500,000 times a year for self defense (depending on who’s research you believe – the real number is undoubtedly in between those two). In almost all of those cases the gun is not fired. The mere display of the firearm to the bad guy causes him to go elsewhere and seek to find someone without a gun to prey upon. Numerous interviews with convicted felons in prison show that they are usually more afraid of armed citizens than the police.

    The fact is that many useful things can be used for good or bad. That is true for cars as much as guns (and many other things also).

    Of course if you don’t own a gun for self defense then that means you depend on other people to have guns to defend you. Maybe you are lucky and live in a really good, safe neighborhood. But here is a fact you might consider.

    The police have no legal obligation to protect you as an individual and they cannot be held liable if they fail to protect you, even if they are grossly negligent. This issue has went to the Supreme Court a number of times. The police only have a general duty to protect the public as a whole.

    Now, how long do you suppose – how many minutes – would it take the police to get to your house to protect you? So if you are attacked and seriously harmed or killed, and you yourself refused to take prudent measures for self defense, then ultimately who’s fault is that? Who’s fault would it be if someone murdered you and your son because you were unprepared to protect him?

    “So I decided not to let my now 5 year old son play with toy guns, …”

    Forbidden fruit. You are probably more likely to motivate him to own a gun as an adult by doing this. But that’s ok with me, except that you may not see that he is taught anything about gun safety. If you allow him to have a toy gun (as you said later that you did) then you as a parent will be grossly irresponsible if you do not expose him to serious gun safety training.

    I would suggest the NRA Eddie Eagle program.



    • Thanks for taking the time to comment in such detail – there is just one small detail that you missed (and no fault of yours, it isn’t clear from the article) but I live in South Africa, not America. Both our laws about gun purchase and our practices around safety are somewhat different. I remain vehemently anti-guns in the home, but that belief is framed around my realities in a country where people’s guns are OFTEN used to kill them in a robbery situation, or they are killed the moment the robbers suspect that they are reaching for a gun. I suspect my views would be similar if I lived in America . . . but this is a light hearted blog, not a political one! Again, thanks for the thought and time in reading my words.

      • “I live in South Africa, not America.”

        Yes, I assumed you were speaking as an American since I see (maybe incorrectly) the gun control debate being largely something we (Americans) are discussing. I can’t really comment on what the situation is where you live so I will not try to. 🙂

        I do however still strongly advise good gun safety instruction for your son. No matter what we like, or dislike, guns are a part of the environment and it is better that people understand how to be safe around them than not. It is not a bad idea for parents either, even if they never plan on owning one. What if you were in a situation where you came across a gun in your environment and wanted to make sure it was unloaded and safe? Maybe you could just go somewhere else and leave it alone, but then what if some kid comes along and finds it?

        “this is a light hearted blog, not a political one!”

        Ok, sorry. I often comment on posts about gun control, but I did actually see some of the humor in your post. As a parent, and a gun owner myself, I have had conversations with myself and my wife about when/how it was appropriate to let kids have toy guns. Actually I did something like you did early on with my sons. I didn’t let them have toy guns either. My motivation at the time was that I wanted them to believe that any gun they might pick up was a real gun, not a toy gun. I thought toy guns taught bad lessons.

        My youngest son, at about 4 years wanted a toy gun. I didn’t let him have it. One day – we live in a suburb – I look down the street and see my son racing home as fast as he can – with a toy gun in his hand – and a gang of boys chasing him. He stole the toy gun and was running home with it. He has always been a little impulsive. 🙂

        I can appreciate some of remarks about your son. My youngest one was difficult. Fortunately the U.S. Marine Corps has him now and is continuing his education. He is doing quite well and his official military occupation is “machine gunner.” 🙂



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