Scotland: "Playing with guns is 'good for boys' "


July 13, 2003, 09:12 PM
from Scotland on Sunday with guns is 'good for boys'


BANNING boys from playing with toy guns is futile and may even damage their development, a leading child psychologist has warned.

Confirming what many guilty parents long suspected, Penny Holland says boys will indulge in gunplay regardless of attempts by schools, nurseries and guardians to stop them.

Holland, who claims boys have fallen victim to politically correct dogma, claims that suppressing their need for boisterous play may be counter-productive.

Holland, senior lecturer in early childhood studies at London Metropolitan University, believes that boys who have been banned from playing at soldiers, pirates, or superheroes, become disruptive and live up to a "bad boy" image.

But her views have been strongly opposed by gun control groups and families of the children killed in the 1996 Dunblane massacre. The tragedy dramatically accelerated the existing trend towards banning toy guns and swords in shops and nurseries alike.

But in a new book, We Don’t Play With Guns Here, Holland says the ban on violent play should be reconsidered.

She argues that the zero-tolerance approach that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s was wrong to assume that "the spiral of male violence" could be broken by preventing boys from playing aggressive games.

Holland claims that 30 years after the ban on playing with guns and swords came into vogue, there has been no evidence of a decline in their desire to play violent games.

Boys continued to play behind the backs of staff, even when they had been told it was wrong. Even when the plastic guns and swords were taken away, they did what generations of boys have done before. Pieces of wood, tennis rackets and even pens and crayons, all became guns, swords, and daggers in the fertile young imagination.

Holland adds there is no evidence that boys were more or less likely to grow into aggressive men because of the games they played.

The book suggests that nurseries that had relaxed their ban on guns, swords and violent games reported that boys had more fun together, made closer friendships, and became more creative in other areas of play, such as dressing up as princes in fairy tales. Most such nurseries found that the amount of real fighting between boys declined.

Holland said of the war games: "It is very much part of them making sense of the world. It relates to timeless themes of the struggle between good and evil.

"It seems to represent a developmental need to play with these things and my feeling is that it is counter-productive to work against that.

"Where there has been rigorous enforcement of zero tolerance, it marginalises these children because their interests are so squarely rejected. If they are constantly receiving negative responses to their play interests, with people saying, ‘No, we don’t play with guns here’, they absorb the sense that they are bad boys. They seek negative attention and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle."

Helen Fraser, a senior lecturer in child development at Edinburgh University, said she broadly agreed with Holland’s findings.

She said: "It’s all a matter of balance and proportion. I would be very cautious of allowing too much of a fascination with guns to develop, but I think we can all think of examples where we played games such as Cowboys and Indians and it did us little harm.

"What I would be more dubious about would be some of the scenes of violence on television and the impact of some very violent video games."

A shooting coach, Alan Phillips, said the research was a welcome dose of common sense.

Philips, a senior member of the UK Practical Shooting Association, said: "For years people who shoot have been demonised as representing some kind of ‘gun culture’. Maybe gangsters are embroiled in some kind of gun culture, but responsible shooters are certainly not.

"When I was younger we always played Cowboys and Indians and sometimes just used our fingers as guns. We all turned out pretty normal, at least to my mind."

However, the father of one of the victims of Dunblane, Charlie Clydesdale, was less enthusiastic about children playing with toy guns.

Clydesdale, who lost his daughter Victoria when Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and their teacher, admitted it would be difficult to prevent boys playing with toy guns, but urged manufacturers to make their guns less like the real thing.

Recent advances in technology mean that toy guns have become increasingly realistic.

Clydesdale said: "I am not in favour of children playing with guns, but if it’s going to happen then the guns should not look like real weapons. I am concerned that some toy guns look too much like real guns and that they might be leaving young people more open to the whole gun culture. If they are going to exist then they should be painted in bright colours or look more like space weapons even."

Gill Marshall-Andrews, the Chair of the Gun Control Network, added: "I’m very sorry indeed to hear that someone is writing this kind of stuff. It’s perfectly possible to grow up as a well-adjusted young man even if one has never had anything to do with guns or toy weapons. What we want to be doing is taking guns out of society and out of circulation.

"Worldwide, guns cause countless deaths, even some of the most notorious recent mass killings have all been perpetrated by people using guns which they held legally. We don’t want to encourage more interest in guns."

A brief survey of some Scottish toy shops yesterday showed that children were keen on toy guns despite 30 years of discouragement.

Edinburgh department store Jenners stocks three different kinds of toy gun. All of the models on display had a cowboy theme. They included a plastic replica of the Wild West Winchester repeater rifle, a single hand gun, complete with holster and ‘sheriff’ badge.

At the nearby John Lewis department store, two kinds of guns were on display. Again, both had a Wild West theme.

According to staff, the guns were the top-selling products in the store.

A member of staff, who asked not to be named, admitted: "Although the toy guns are not our biggest seller in terms of profit, they are our biggest seller by volume."


Children’s experts have traditionally believed boys should not be allowed to play with toy guns because of the risk they would grow up to be violent. The campaign against toy weapons has seen toy gun amnesties organised, and a number of shops ban the sale of toy guns, soldiers, tanks and warplanes. Other toys, such as Lego, have been designed so they cannot be used as toy weapons, deliberately avoiding military-style colours.

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July 13, 2003, 10:17 PM
Other toys, such as Lego, have been designed so they cannot be used as toy weapons, deliberately avoiding military-style colours.

I guess then that they'll be really happy to hear about the rubber-band-powered Lego guns my brother and I built when we were little. They didn't shoot the bricks fast enough to hurt anybody, but my mom did the "you'll put someone's eye out" thing and made us take them apart...

July 13, 2003, 10:32 PM
All I can say is It's about time somone said something in scotland in the support of guns one way or another.

& CleverNickname, remember the School Projectile Weapons made of a double looped rubber band hooked between either 2 fingers or a makeshift crossbow and a rolled pice of paper bent in half in a "V" to have a rock hard blunt end? Damn thost things can hurt!!!:D:rolleyes:

Greg L
July 13, 2003, 10:57 PM
Way back when (30 years now :eek: I feel old) I spent a year in the UK as a 6-7 year old. Being the child as some semi hard core anti's I had to make do. I remember vividly that I managed to nail a 1' piece of 1"x2" lumber onto a 2" diameter pine dowel and painted the whole thing black making a (remarkable to me now) very good imitation of a Sten gun. My friends and I had many a running battle through our backyards. I shudder to think what would happen now.

Boys will be boys and the more they get to be boys as boys the less they have to catch up with as teenagers/adults with even bigger (and thus more dangerous) toys that they have no experience with (thus my 10 years in the army getting the full auto bug out of my system :rolleyes: ).


July 13, 2003, 10:57 PM
My three year-old daughter has no toy guns and I have no plans to buy her any. She does have a collection of real firearms which I am keeping for her in my gun safe.

They're all mine for the next four years or so. :p


Parker Dean
July 14, 2003, 01:04 AM
I was over at a friends house the other day helping him get a car running that got dumped on him. Anyway there were three boys around 7-10yo making a bit of racket playing some game with toy guns. Is it pathetic to say that I was mildly surprised?

July 14, 2003, 02:55 AM
I had toy guns but I don't recall shooting them at anyone. We played knights with wooden swords (and knives) using trashcan lids for shields.

My kids were allowed toy guns but were instructed to treat them as real. I had no questions as to their ability to safely handle a real firearm when the time came. Can't recall having to make a safety related comment to them once they graduated to the real thing. Very responsible gun handlers.

July 14, 2003, 03:18 AM
And we care what Scotland thinks why?

Sean Smith
July 14, 2003, 08:12 AM
The whole reaction to Dunblane seems like a national psychosis to an outside observer. One pedophile decides to go out shooting, and this spectacular overreaction ensues... not by the people directly involved (how can you overreact to your child being killed?), but by people 100 miles away. The root cause of Dunblane was failure to incarcerate pedophiles, not increasing already colossal levels of gun control and sissifying the upbringing of children.

July 14, 2003, 11:45 AM
Goddess forbid girls should ever be anything but quiet and prim and proper submissive breeders!

Bile rises and words fail. . .

July 14, 2003, 11:50 AM
Yea, good thing you can't make any guns out of Legos:

July 14, 2003, 10:45 PM
Gee, thanks, Mikul... now I've seen it all :scrutiny: :p :evil: :) :D

July 14, 2003, 11:03 PM

Boys big and small.

Tell me something I don't know.

July 14, 2003, 11:35 PM
When I was in grade school, I was the supplier to the whole 5th grade class. I built tiny pistols out of the spring-style clothspins that would shoot a BB about 25 ft. Immensly popular. They also shot toothpicks, if you added some paper fletching to them.

Later, I went to work for the Military-Industrial complex. Toothpicks to nuclear missiles, fun trip. :D

4v50 Gary
July 15, 2003, 12:58 AM
Mikul - I might have to start playing with Lego again. ;)

BTW, waddadey 'pex? See Robin Hood and you want to play with swords & bows. See cowboys and Indians and you wanna play that (but if you're Eastern European, it may be Tartars & Cossacks) ad infinitum. So long as no one is hurt, it's all fun and it teaches teamwork, respect and lets the little weasals wear themselves out before they come home.

July 15, 2003, 02:10 PM
I am concerned that some toy guns look too much like real guns and that they might be leaving young people more open to the whole gun culture. If they are going to exist then they should be painted in bright colours or look more like space weapons even." :barf: Space guns are great...for playing SPACE MAN! As kids we used to have, literally, footlockers full of toy guns. The more realistic the better. My brother actually purchases his guns now specifically based on the toys we used to have. His collection has lots of the models we used to have as kids. Trying to recapture some of that childhood excitement. It's very cool.

Let the blissninnys chew on that one for a while. Losers.

- Gabe

July 15, 2003, 02:17 PM
"Worldwide, guns cause countless deaths, even some of the most notorious recent mass killings have all been perpetrated by people using guns which they held legally

For example:

The Dunblane Massacre - Committed by a pedophile who didn't have his license revoked due to problems with the local bureaucracy.

The Columbine shooting - illegally possessed guns in a gun-free zone.

The Oklahoma bombing - the murderer carried a legal gun.


July 15, 2003, 04:57 PM
While not a scientific experiment, my wife and I were caught up in the whole "don't expose your kids to violent activities and they won't grow up violent".

During a recent, brief lapse in sanity and reason, my wife and I -- me being a longtime shooter but lately too busy to keep with it -- succumbed to daycare and nanny-state suburban PC-ness and forbid my son (now six years old) from playing with toy guns, pretending to shoot anyone/thing or from watching violent TV. At daycare, the boys got in severe trouble for even inferring anything to do with guns. I "hid" my guns on the rare occasions that I actually got to use them (mostly to go hunting once or twice a year).

The result? My son continually got in trouble at daycare for having shootouts at daycare. He had a fascination with guns. He built them out of Tinker Toys. He was a "terror", biting and hitting...about the same as other boys his age.

The straw that broke this camel's back was when I overheard a day care provider say "guns are bad, people who use guns are bad" to another child. THAT WAS IT. That moment two years ago actually rekindled my long-dormant interest in shooting and guns.

Now I actively involve my son in cleaning guns and gun safety. He watches the NRA Eddie Eagle videos. He has shot a 22 (highly supervised). I still tell him not to shoot people but always couch it in a gun safety example.

The result? He's growing up as a normal boy. I'm teaching him to not be ashamed and treat guns as a normal part of life (not easy in soccer mom country...folks in rural areas won't quite understand this). He actually shows LESS interest in guns than before...but he does show interest when I do.

Now I start working on my 3 year old daughter and 2 year old son.

July 15, 2003, 05:29 PM
I had a toy musket, flintlock pistol, a black plastic C96, a Kadet bolt action, and I used my Star Wars stormtrooper rifle as a Sterling. Needless to say, guns-o-plenty. I used to have a Pittsburg Pirates hat that I would put cloth under in back and pretend I was a French Foreign Legionaire.

El Tejon
July 15, 2003, 05:32 PM
Of course boys need weapons! From birth their hands reach out for weapons. They need to wrestle, they need to fight, they need wooden swords, training guns and real firearms. Boys fight and use their hands--take that soccermommies--they are not little dress-up dolls to be pumped full of medication and molded into clay like the New Soviet Man!

However, most of all, THEY NEED DISCIPLINE! The need a mother and father who will see that this is done within the confines of rules, limitations and standards to ensure their growth and development of martial skills and internalize that discipline so they turn into men, not thugs or slugs.

I am soon to have 4 little boys running about my brother's; boys ignorant of grappling, fighting, swords, and the use of firearms (the oldest is 5 and apparently has seen his first "karate movie"--I nearly cried). However, they are learning discipline. I can harldy wait until Tio Tejon is allowed to get started!:D

July 15, 2003, 06:30 PM
learn them up uncle tejon :D
I say let the kiddies get the aggression out rather than supress the eternal male desire to play rough afraid eventually we'll be to the point where we medicate kids that want to play violent games......
"im sorry Mrs Smith, your son Tommy wants to play with guns........we'll just give him some of these pills and he will be right as rain"

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