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  • Approved for CNN

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    Posted June 12, 2014 by
    Cedar Grove, New Jersey
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Guns and children

    More from JoyfulGypsy

    Fantasy of toy guns helps kids understand real guns


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     JoyfulGypsy and her brothers played with toy guns and other toy weapons as kids, but she says that they all grew up to be responsible adults. “Growing up playing with toy guns helped me understand just how dangerous real guns can be and the damage they can cause,” said the Cedar Grove, New Jersey, resident. When she raised her children, she always made the following point: “I made sure to emphasize that real guns should only be handled by adults and should never to be touched by children under any circumstances, unless only certain trusted adults are present and supervising.” She stresses the same point when she spends time with her grandson, the one holding the toy gun in the photos.

    “I think it is very important to talk our children very honestly from a young age about guns, gun safety, responsibility and the dangers and consequences associated with gun use and ownership.”
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    I grew up in the 1960's and 70's as the only girl in a family of rough and tumble boys. Our toy box was an arsenal of toy weapons, full of cap guns, holsters, water guns, slingshots, suction-cup-tipped darts and arrows, grenades, Lost in Space type spark guns that looked so cool lighting up the night.


    We were not unusual. Most of the kids in our neighborhood had just as many toy weapons as we did.


    We would spend a lot of time playing outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, getting lots of exercise. We would build elaborate forts, compose complicated war plans, learn the value of teamwork and learn to look out for one another. It was a healthy way of releasing our abundant childhood energy and aggression. It was competition and empowerment. It was also humility and acceptance when a muddy foam "bullet" would bounce off our chests as we let out an exaggerated yell, falling to the ground with more drama and grace than a stunt man in a Spaghetti Western.


    In the rare occasion that one of us would accidentally skin a knee or get hurt in some way. The game would immediately stop and everyone would run to help.


    So why didn't any of us grow up to be homicidal maniacs? As a matter of fact, we all grew up to be pretty well-adjusted, compassionate, kind, responsible adults.


    Playing with toy guns was pretend, it was imaginary, it was fantasy and we knew the difference from reality. That is the key and that is what made it so much fun.


    Guns are a very real and pervasive part of our American culture. Keeping our children ignorant and simply pretending guns do not exist is not going to change anything. However, not making our guns an unnecessary temptation by keeping them locked away and out of our children's reach until they are ready to handle them and teaching them to respect real weapons by showing them and explaining to them honestly the very real, permanent and devastating damage they can cause is, in my opinion, the best way to encourage a responsible attitude towards guns and the best way to keep our children safe, yet well informed.


    Photos of my grandson playing with a plastic toy gun taken by me.


    Lulis Leal

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