The Super Soaker Dilemma: Do You Let Your Kids Play With Water Guns or Other Toy Weapons?

In the great gun-toting state of Texas, where I've lived for the past 13 years, kids and guns go together like biscuits and gravy. My Facebook news feed regularly features my friends 6-year-old kids beaming right next to a deer carcass. And we have multiple guns in our own house -- some for hunting and some for protection. But even though I believe in the right to bear arms, I still don't let my kids play with toy weapons.

That's because I've heard plenty of stories that make me question my own beliefs. On July 15th, a 3-year-old boy in Indiana accidentally shot and killed his own father. If a child is allowed to play with toy guns, how is he expected to know the difference between a toy gun and a real gun?

Of course, every summer my no-toy-weapon policy gets watered down -- literally. It's easy to avoid buying your kids toy weapons, but it's nearly impossible to steer clear of water guns which regularly show up in birthday party goody bags and seem to materialize out of thin air at the park as many well-meaning parents tote along extras to minimize the squabbles.

To compensate for this hypocritical bending of the rules, my husband (who knew how to use a gun by age 11) and I try to call the water guns "soakers" or "squirters" -- and tell ourselves that's their purpose. And we've never seen our boys call out, "Bang! Bang!" when drenching friends. But it all seems a slippery slope. Last year, when we let our then 6-year-old play laser tag, a bunch of boys surrounded him at one point, shouting, "You’re dead! You're dead!" Moments like this make my heart sink. I can only hope that splicing these fine lines on toy guns doesn't confuse my kids and that they understand that while guns serve a purpose, they're not for play.

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