What to tell a child about pointing toy guns at others?


June 25, 2005, 06:10 PM
I don't have children, but being the resident gun nut of the family, I buy my nephews toy guns, and play guns with them in and out of the house when I am visiting them (my brother, sis in law, and nephews). But I've become confused about the best way to teach a kid to be safe with guns, so that as they get older, they will easily transition to the "never point a gun at anything you don't intend to kill or destroy", one of the 4 rules. But there seems to be a lot of gray area between water pistols (which you MUST point at someone, or you ain't gonna get em wet) and other little kids' toy guns that shoot suction cup darts, or don't shoot anything at all, working up to semi-dangerous guns (like airsoft), and then on up to truly dangerous guns wherein the 4 rules must be followed always (bb & pellet guns, and firearms). So, since the oldest kid is only 5, I need a simple, workable rule to explain to him...here are some I have considered for his toy guns:

1. Do not point them at anyone, unless you're outside of the house and the person has agreed to play guns with you. This "base rule" is one his mom seems to favor.
2. But what about, do not point them at anyone's head ever, even when playing; point only at their body, and only outside, and only if the person has agreed to play guns with you (I think this rule is necessary so he doesn't shoot people in the eye with suction cup dart guns, as he has me before). But see, now it's started to get too complicated for a 5 year old to understand potentially.

The rules are gonna change too, as the type of 'toys' change, because if he gets an airsoft at say, age 7, 8, or 9, then he probably shouldn't point those at anybody, ever....or do you think body shots are safe with 250 fps airsoft 6mm pellets? Paintball is easy, becuase you only point it at someone when you are on the paintball course, and thus everyone has their full gear on; otherwise, you treat it just like a firearm - 4 rules; never point it at anyone, period. By that time - age 10, 11, 12 ish, he'd be able to understand more complicated rules, but the problem is that, the rules become simpler, not more complicated, as one grows older and has more dangerous toys, the opposite of what would be convenient for teaching.

Anyway, just a little confused... basically, what rules have you used with kids, and at what ages, and do you think it is negligent/unsafe to shoot airsoft pellets at one another (assumed you've agreed to a 'fight' and assuming the rule is no head shots)? And this second question is basically a way to ask, with what type of 'toy' is the bright line drawn in the sand, between a 'toy-toy' and a non-toy 'toy', where one follows hard and fast to the 4 rules of firearm safety? And what age would you let a kid of average maturity play with an airsoft - 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11?

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June 25, 2005, 06:19 PM
1. Do not point them at anyone, unless you're outside of the house and the person has agreed to play guns with you. This "base rule" is one his mom seems to favor.

Sounds good to me. When/if he starts using airsofts, the rule should pretty much be the same. Airsoft BBs at typical velocities won't do much more than give you a good sting. Eye protection is mandatory, though, even if you have a "below the neck" rule.

In fact, requiring the use of goggles while playing with squirt guns might not be a bad idea...

edit: Oh, and I'd recommend only buying him the clear airsofts, since those are more obviously not a real gun or bb/pellet gun, which not only reduces the chances of the neighbors calling the cops, but should (hopefully) reinforce the difference between "toy" and "potentially lethal tool" to him as well.

June 25, 2005, 06:33 PM
I have often been contemplating this same set of questions. My 3 year old is doing vry good about not touching daddys guns unless I say it is OK, but to help make her feel involved I let her play with the plastic orange barreled, "cowboys and indians" cap gun I use to train the dog with. No caps of course, but she does hold it pretty good for her age. It seems we have to talk about not pointing it at people, dogs, cats, people on the TV, and other things quite often. Sometimes she is good about it, others times, well...she is a typical 3 year old.

Standing Wolf
June 25, 2005, 06:39 PM
If I'd had children, they wouldn't have had toy guns. They'd have had real guns, complete with all the serious talks about handling them safely, trips to the range, cleaning sessions, et cetera.

June 25, 2005, 06:42 PM
The technique I used with my son many years ago and now with my grandson is to differentiate between "PRETEND" and "REAL". My five year old grandson has no problem differentiating between the two. I started when he was four by pointing out to him that TV cartoons and movies are Pretend and not Real. Told him never to try anything he sees on TV or movie without asking me or his Dad first, ESPECIALLY ABOUT GUNS, because it is NOT real and often not safe. I think the message got thru because sometimes he will remind me that something on a cartoon, a movie, or whatever we are playing is "Just Pretend". The kids of my generation (and previous generations) grew up knowing the vast difference between pretend and real. I think the kids today are even smarter than we were at a given age and will have no problem learning the difference. YMMV

Good shooting and be safe.

ps: When my grandson was only four we taught him two real gun rules:
1. Never point a gun at anyone.
2. Never play with guns without his Dad or me present.
He knows the rules and can quote them on request. We hope he will also apply them when we are not around. We take every opportunity to reinforce proper gun safety habits with him.

June 25, 2005, 07:09 PM
the Mozambique drill!
CT :p

Art Eatman
June 25, 2005, 07:13 PM
I and neighborhood kids, around the ages of five on up to ten or so, played the proverbial cowboys/Indians games with cap pistols.

Many of us also had BB guns, and some had access to .22 rifles.

We had no difficulty in knowing the difference between all of them. We aimed at each other with the cap pistols, but BB guns were definitely a no-no as far as aiming/pointing at one another. And we darned sure knew that the .22s were "for real".

The deal is, "This is a toy." and, "This is NOT a toy!"


June 25, 2005, 08:20 PM
sounds like you guys have good ideas, and just so you know, i dont have kids (im 15), but i think that toy guns are a good thing, so that they can do the things with them that they cant with a real weapon, such as the "cowboys vs indians" games, so they can do that without danger so that they dont get the idea of doing it with a real gun. thats what i did until i learned about airsoft, and it worked for me, maybe it will work for your kids.

June 25, 2005, 10:49 PM
I agree with Art Eatman.
As a young boy I grew up playing with and pointing toy guns at my buddies. I did understand the difference between a toy and a real gun. It isn't rocket science.
I have never hurt another human being with a gun. However, I have shot a lot of "bad guys" with my toy cap pistol.


June 25, 2005, 11:18 PM
This topic, or variations on this theme, have come up both in my home, and among my peers. You hear every variation, from "no toy guns ever" to "let them play, they are kids." Personally, I have not yet come up with an answer i like. On one hand, i dislike seeing my older son (age 5) yell "I killed you" and pointing any toy gun at another child. On the other hand, I think back fondley on spending entire days playing war with the neighborhood kids, and the virtual arsenal of toy guns I collected in my childhood years.

I guess the way i was raised is probably the best a parent, or any adult can do. Recognize and teach the difference between reaility and imaginative play. Keep out of the imaginative play as much as possible, and is comfortable. teach reality with strict, unyielding rules (as we all do anyways). And, try to keep reality and fantasy as seperate as possible, until the child is old enough to know and recognize the distinction on their own.

And, join in the squit gun battles whenever you can. They are great fun, and build memories for you and the child that will be eternal.

June 26, 2005, 05:11 AM
I grew up without guns (parents are anti-gun) so I didn't have to make a distinction. I played with toy guns and a big part of that is pointing them at friends and saying "bang" and them doing the same to you.

Now I am a gun owner.

When I have kids my kids will definately learn to shoot. I certainly want them to not only know the safety rules but to totally internalize them.

While I'm not even married so this is several years off as a real worry, I do think about what I'm going to do about this. I can only think of three solutions to keeping them from getting lax about gun safety with toy guns. First, is no toy guns. Nothing that looks even vaguely like a gun that they might point at a person. Buying a toy gun and saying "don't point it at anyone" is unlikely, and letting them point them at someone then giving them a real gun and saying never point it at someone is too much for young children. The second option is to let them have toy guns, but then make them wait until their teens until they ever touch a real gun (and by then disallow toy guns). The third, and more likely, option is to only buy toy guns that look nothing like real guns. You know the clear red, yellow and green plastic guns that look like some ray gun out of a scifi movie. Nothing black or silver no matter what they are shaped like, and no multicolored toys that are shaped like real guns.

June 26, 2005, 05:20 AM
I just wanted to say that no airsoft pistol should be pointed at anyone either unless they're in gear similar to paintball -- while a body shot wont do any damage, a shot in the eye can and probably will do a significant ammount. "always aim for the body" is good and all, but accidents happen.

That said, i like LHB1's suggestion.

June 26, 2005, 07:47 AM
I was about to post saying that I do not remember any such talk with my father, but then I really thought about it. When I got to the age that boys play games like army with toy guns my father took me out shooting with him. He set up a plastic jug filled with water on a rotten tree stump and let me shoot it with a 20 gauge shotgun. I still remember how the blast shredded the jug and tore into the old stump. The more I think about it the more I am convinced that this was his way of showing me the difference between play and reality. I am sure it varies child to child and parent to parent, but you may want to consider this approach.

June 26, 2005, 07:48 AM
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June 26, 2005, 07:55 AM
In my family, there were no toy guns. There were many real ones, but no toys. Dad did not think it was the right way to impart the seriousness of guns. We could, and did, handle the guns, but with Dad being there, and instructing. There were no gun accidents in our home.

robert garner
June 26, 2005, 08:00 AM
I remember Mattels "Shootin Shells" and water gun fights;
However I never gave a toy gun to my son, his first was a
Red Ryder BB gun, then pellet, now at 10 he's got a 22,
Never yet "cought" him pointing at an innapropriate target!
I also believe that they WILL rise to the level you expect of them

June 26, 2005, 08:12 AM
Spent much of my youth playing "war" with everyone in the neighborhood...We all had small arsenals of toy guns(but mine were the best :D) Don't ever recall having to be told anything when I finally got "real" guns....I think the "PRETEND" vs."REALITY" tactic is best I can think of too. Also like the idea of providing toys that don't really look much like real guns....

Interestingly, my boys never had toy guns...Their mother wouldn't like it,but we were divorced when they were young...Just not a toy they showed much interest in...They do shoot my "real" guns now, qlthough they don't have high level of interest, beyond being capable of using them in an emergency,or the occasional fun plinking in the back woods...

M2 Carbine
June 26, 2005, 09:21 AM
Kids are smart enough to understand, this is pretend and this is real.
I grew up on cap pistols and the Three Stooges. We knew both were pretend. We knew cap pistols didn't hurt you but real guns would and no matter what today's "child experts" say we didn't stick our fingers in each other's eyes because the Three Stooges did it.

My friend beings his 5-6 year old son to my range. The boy brings his toy guns. No matter how he normally plays with his cap guns and water guns and paint ball guns he understands when we are shooting real guns this isn't play. He is required to, and does, follow proper gun handling rules with his toy guns.
The only rule we bend for him is when we are shooting he shoots from his place in back of the firing line. :)

The last time we were shooting we started him shooting his first real gun, a Beretta 22. :)

June 26, 2005, 10:50 AM
I trained my youngest (now gonna be 10) to never point guns at people.
So she's left outta waterpistol fights, but as soon as her hands are a bit bigger she'll be shootin' (like her big sister -- started at 8, now 20) real ones.

But not (hopefully, ever) pointing them at people.

June 26, 2005, 11:04 AM
well, as i don't have kids, maybe i'm not qualified to give advice, but i think the whole "real vs. pretend" issue has some interesting social consequences as well. there are plenty of supposed adults who have difficulty differentiating between real and pretend. mall ninjas are an excellent case in point. certain elected officials have the same difficulty. if more people gave toy guns to their young children, bb guns to adolescents and real guns to teenagers while carefully instructing in the difference between real and pretend, maybe the world would be a slightly better place.

June 26, 2005, 11:16 AM
I'm 53. Played cowboys and indians, cops and robbers and every other toy gun game a child could think of when I was a boy. It was pretend and we knew it.

By the time I was 13 we'd graduated to BB gun wars. We didn't play without face shields (the ole gonna shoot your eye out deal) and if you didn't have some type of face, eye protection - well - you just didn't get to play with us and that was 1965.

Are kids today any dumber or have less sense than kids 40 years ago?

Kids know the difference between pretend and real (at least my daughters and grandchildren do). Those that don't might just need a bit more parenting or a little less TV.

June 26, 2005, 12:52 PM
I'm 67. I grew up playing "cowboys and Indians" and "cops and robbers" with anything we could make look sort of like a gun. Some times we just nailed two pieces of wood together, or found a tree branch that looked roughly like a gun. We "killed" each other and dropped to the ground "dead". And spent a lot time arguing that our opponent "missed" us.

We knew we were "pretending". We knew we weren't "hurt". And we knew we weren't "dead".

When we got older and were able to have "real" BB guns. We were warned that it was not a "toy", it was a "real gun" and it could hurt someone. We were told how to use it and how not to use it. We were warned that if were caught misusing it would be taken away. When we first got them we could only play in eye's view of an adult. Very shortly, my mother saw me point mine at another boy. I argued that I just pointed, I wasn't going to shoot. Didn't work. The gun was taken away for a year! We all learned a lesson --mostly me!

When we graduated to 22s we understood how much more dangerous they could be than BB guns -- and the bigger the bullet the more the danger.

I never saw anyone shot or even heard of it.

Kids in my day were not nearly as sophisticated as kids today -- but it worked even for us dummies!!!

June 26, 2005, 01:42 PM
When I was a kid, back shortly after the reign of Cro Magnon man, everybody played with toy guns, of all kinds, sorts and descriptions. Cap guns were allowed to be pointed at anyone. Water pistols were allowed to be pointed at anyone (and if you picked the wrong person and got your butt busted as a consequence, that was your fault). Anything that launched a projectile, however ... BB guns, dart guns, plastic suction cut bows and arrows ... was NEVER to be pointed or shot any any person, or at pets.

Back then we had enough toy weapons that we knew the difference between toys and the real thing. It was understood that real guns kill what they shoot, and therefore you never aim it at a person (or animal) unless you intend to kill him/it. It was also understood that even the toys had the capacity to injure, which is why we were allowed to shoot them only at proper targets.

Miraculously, it seems, all my friends from my generation and I managed to survive to adulthood, and to the best of my knowledge none of my cap gun-wielding amigos ever became a serial killer. Today it's different. Too many kids aren't allowed to play with toy guns or to learn about real guns, with the entirely predictable result that when they encounter one, curiosity takes over and they investigate. But, having no exposure and no familiarity, they don't know how to tell a real gun from a fake; they don't know that they aren't supposed to point real guns at people (after all, on the telly the standard dispute resolution strategem is to shoot to slide lock); and the result is often an "accidental" (i.e. negligent) discharge, often claiming the life of a youth.

The million morons can say "It's for the children" all they want, but the inescapable fact is that children were a lot safer a couple of generations ago, when we were taught about real guns by real people (our fathers, generally) who had carried them in one or more of several wars.

June 26, 2005, 01:51 PM
Anyway, just a little confused... basically, what rules have you used with kids, and at what ages, and do you think it is negligent/unsafe to shoot airsoft pellets at one another (assumed you've agreed to a 'fight' and assuming the rule is no head shots)? And this second question is basically a way to ask, with what type of 'toy' is the bright line drawn in the sand, between a 'toy-toy' and a non-toy 'toy', where one follows hard and fast to the 4 rules of firearm safety? And what age would you let a kid of average maturity play with an airsoft - 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11?
You've already been shot in the eye with a suction cup dart, and you're asking if it's okay to shoot at people with an air soft?


Simple rule -- if anything comes out of it other than water, you only shoot it at targets. No shooting at people, no pointing at people (Might as well learn early that ALL guns are always loaded).

Another kid might agree to "fight" with air softs, but he might not know he can get hurt. Big liability issue for you right there. No head shots? If you're playing GI Joe, you're moving. What started out as a CoM shot can quickly become a shot in the eye.


Even a 5-year old should be able to understand that.

Safe age for airsoft? 8 with adult supervision, 21 without.

Seriously. You did say "a kid of average maturity." That's a pretty low standard these days. Kids today are very sophisticated, but not very mature. There is a difference ... think about it.

June 26, 2005, 05:05 PM
My 2&1/2 year old grandson already has a toy AR-15 and toy AK-47. He will be taught the difference between real and pretend.


June 26, 2005, 05:27 PM
And, having owned both, will probably grow up to be a moderator trying to keep a lid on the "AR vs. AK" threads. :D

June 26, 2005, 06:24 PM
I too was raised playing War with neighbor kids, although I always borrowed toy guns, or used sticks because my father would not allow any toy weapons. I fired my first round at 5, and had my 'own' guns by 10. I did know the difference, and the 4 rules were literally beat into me until I could recite them from memory before I was allowed to hunt.
I have not been so harsh with my sons, they both were eager to learn the rules before they could shoot. My younger boy, who's 7, had to learn "Be sure of your target and beyond" the hard way, costing me a rear window in my Bronco, and him the ability to sit for a while, as well as being sidelined from shooting for a month. :rolleyes: But he is very careful now, and knows even a BBgun can do damage. My boys are out in the yard 'playing Army' as I type this; what's great is that they are working together, defeating a common, invisible, enemy. (Usually the Germans in Stalingrad, they've seen 'Enemy at the Gates' one too many times, I fear.) They use sticks, as I am also strict on toy guns; heck my 11 year old has a collection of real ones some of you guys might envy! ;) He also claims about half of mine, because he can shoot them well. :D (It's genetic, ask my Dad! :p )

They are never too young to learn the Four Rules. Start them early, make it fun, and stress safety. Then, sit back and watch them become riflemen and women. :)

I also made my 11 year old memorize the Rifleman's Prayer before he could fire my milsurps. :D

This is my rifle.

There are many like it, but this one is MINE.

My rifle is my best friend. It is my life.

I must master it as I must master my life.

My rifle without me is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless.

I must fire my rifle true.

I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me.

I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...

My rifle and myself know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire,
the noise of our bursts, nor the smoke we make.

We know it is the hits that count. We will hit...

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life.

Thus, I will learn it as a brother.

I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights, and its barrel.

I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage.

I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready.

We will become part of each other. We will...

Before God I swear this creed.

My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country.

We are the masters of our enemy.

We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until there is no enemy, but PEACE.

BTW, he wants to become a Green Beret. :evil:

June 26, 2005, 10:38 PM
Kids are smart, they can tell the difference between pretend and the real thing. I would want to be sure, though, that they have a proper respect for firearms. Maybe take them out, when they are big enough, and let them shoot your biggestfireball making rifle you have. Give them a good scare, and a healthy respect.

June 27, 2005, 01:36 AM
Oh my gosh, a thread I can really talk on!!

I'm 15 so sometimes I feel a little bit left out on some things. I'm here for the education about guns. But there is airsoft talk here, and I know that quite well.

Yes, airsoft will hurt. Some shots more than others. The shot to my tooth hurt worse than the one to my butt. A paintball mask is an excellent idea, but I heard in here about clear guns. Big no-no for the airsoft community. First, they all break very quickly. No big names company makes clear guns (99% of the time). But as long as you are responsible with them, there's no need to be forced to buy clear ones. I have a black M9, and I've only been confronted by cops once because of airsoft and he was really cool about it(no I didn't break any law). I guess this isn't totally the most appropriate place for airsoft talk, so if you're still interested, go to www.airsoftretreat.com a popular airsoft forum.

June 27, 2005, 01:44 AM
Playing cops 'n' robbers ain't no fun if you can't "shoot" at each other. I think it's fine to allow the kid to play at shooting people if he can recognize the difference between fantasy and reality. If he can't, you have bigger problems than just gun safety. But you could still work in a little something. Would a cowboy(police officer/soldier/SEAL) point his firearm at someone who isn't part of the battle? Or at a friendly? After all, he is the good guy. He ain't 'spose to hurt those people, just the bad guys. The good guy would follow rule 2, 3, and 4. And all cowboys(police officers/soldiers/SEALs) know you aren't supposed to put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire, right?

Now Airsoft is another story. You can hurt someone who isn't wearing a mask/goggles. And they sting. That would require safety equipment and more supervision.

June 27, 2005, 02:03 AM
We never have parent supervision at our airsoft wars. No need. What are they going to do for a bunch of 15 year olds? When you get hurt from a shot, you use your masculanity to get through it.

June 27, 2005, 02:04 AM
Well, I'm not sure I totally agree with Mauserguy, (the '06 was way too much for me at 12) but kids respond to instruction well. Playing was lots of fun, but while I had lots of toy guns as a child, it was always a totally different world from the genuine article. In some ways I preferred my plastic "Johnny Tarheel" SMG because I could run around the yard with it, and not have to be responsible, but there was a very clear distinction between play time and serious adult world responsible time, where I always had my father or a shooting coach standing over my shoulder, and felt the pressure to do everything as though I were a small adult. A toy gun was always a toy shaped like a gun, and much much more toy than gun. I think it's probably not so very hard to make most children understand that, especially given the difference between supervised range shooting with eyes and ears and running around the yard with the squirt gun.
In retrospect, NRA Junior Rifle was a big part of that, since safety rules were strictly enforced, and as a very young man I truly craved my instructor's approval. I was entirely capable of drenching my dad with the squirt gun and water baloons on weekends, while appreciating that actual fireams were a totally different animal. It's all about good teaching.

June 27, 2005, 03:05 AM
We never have parent supervision at our airsoft wars. No need. What are they going to do for a bunch of 15 year olds? When you get hurt from a shot, you use your masculanity to get through it.

I got the impression we were not talking about teenagers but children. I'd think the rules operate a little differently. Though teens generally don't seem much more trustworthy. I have intimate and unbiased knowledge, being one myself. :evil: :neener:

Well, I'm not sure I totally agree with Mauserguy, (the '06 was way too much for me at 12)

My father took apart a 20 gauge shell when my brother and I were only a little more than knee-high to the proverbial grasshopper. Even lit the powder on fire for us. I made the connection and that knowledge(Plus a strong desire to continue eating solid foods. My father is/was a little like Bill Cosby's father in the comedy sketches ;)) made me shy away from touching the shotgun when I shouldn't have.

1911 guy
June 27, 2005, 08:26 AM
Actually, I'm only in my thirties now, buy as a kid, there were no toy guns. We played cowboys and indians and cops and robbers, buy with "improvised weapons". I never even owned a BB gun until the last year. As a kid, Dad said kids do dumb stuff with them they'd never do with the real thing. When I was 8 or 9 I got a 20 ga. H&R, paid for it by mowing grass. Penalties for pointing anything that closely resembled a firearm at anyone resulted in drastic measures from Dad and Grandpa. WWII and 'Nam, no funny business allowed.

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