Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Of Real Guns, Toy Guns, Boys and Parents

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Of Real Guns, Toy Guns, Boys and Parents

Article excerpt

WHEN OUR SON was born, my wife and I made a conscious decision: We would not buy toy guns for him.

We didn't want him looking at guns as a way to resolve his problems. Toy guns did just that, we felt. That decision might be considered by some as an odd choice, since kids will eventually be exposed to guns anyway, if not in person, then at least in television, movies and books.

While we knew that would be the case, we didn't want to encourage gun use by reinforcing it with gifts from us.

As his age entered the double digits, we finally relented - at least to some extent - by buying him one of those big, oddly shaped, neon orange-and-green water guns that they make these days. While we had some reservations about that - and debated the issue a bit - we figured there was no way those could be confused with real guns.

What I've since learned is that some kids, living in a nation where carrying guns is a way of life for too many, have taken toy guns and painted them to look as realistic as possible.

The issue is in the news now because of a recent incident in Brooklyn, N.Y. There, a 13-year-old boy was killed by a housing police officer who mistook the child's toy gun for a real one and the boy's game of cops-and-robbers as something threatening.

The boy's parents have called for other parents to consider purchasing other toys besides guns for their children. They've also urged toy stores to exchange guns for other toys.

"Children cannot play games as we did when we were young," said Angela Heyward, the mother of the victim, Nicholas Heyward Jr. "Society is different now. It's sad that they don't have a real childhood, but I lost a son."

Responding to the Heywards' call, Toys `R' Us, the nation's largest toy store, announced Friday that it would stop selling any toy gun that could be modified to look like the real thing. Kay-Bee Toy Stores made a similar announcement a few hours later. They joined other major department stores that stopped selling toy guns years ago.

I wish the Heyward case had been an isolated incident. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Over the years, I've read too many reports of youngsters being harmed, sometimes killed, because someone thought the gun they had was something more than a toy. …

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