I Don’t Want My Kids Equating Deadly Semi-Automatic Weapons With ‘Toys’

I don’t presume to know what compels a young person to open fire on unsuspecting and defenseless people.  Lack of support for aggressive behavioral issues, widespread availability of firearms, and images of violence in the media are all common influences cited after tragedies like the mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now Newtown, Connecticut. I believe all three of those issues play a role.  However, there is a relatively new phenomenon that makes my skin crawl: toy versions of these deadly semi-automatic weapons.

Being a mother of a young boy, when I see photos of the Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, my mind jumps right to this:


Nerf N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25 Blaster 


Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS



It’s true I don’t understand gun culture, but I do understand the Constitution of these United States.  I can comprehend the Second Amendment and the legacy of gun ownership that is entrenched in our society.  These toy guns have nothing to do with the Second Amendment though.  They are nothing more than tiny toy terror. They should be wiped from store shelves and e-commerce sites immediately.  Admittedly, I am not a fan of toy guns in any shape or size but who or what condones these brightly colored replicas of killing machines?

These products are nothing short of appalling in the hands of children and teenagers.   One only need read the descriptions on the box to be convinced of that:

  • Rapid launching action increases your battle speed and accuracy!
  • The first fully automatic Nerf Clip System blaster to date
  • When it comes time to unload on a target, pull the Acceleration Trigger to spin the motor up to launching speed, then blast a semi-auto swarm of darts as fast as you can pull the Launch Trigger.
  • Aspiring vigilantes aged eight years and up will be totally equipped to fight bad guys with the Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS.

The manufacturer suggests children eight years old and up can enjoy these weapons.  Despite the fact that the men in the ads look old enough to vote or perhaps legally drink alcohol, the age range for this product begins with a third grader.  I don’t know many third graders who are “aspiring vigilantes” but I wouldn’t be sad if they dropped that one from their list of potential career choices.  Not that the “and up” is much better.  I certainly wouldn’t buy this for a teenager as they go through, quite possibly, the most confusing and unstable years of life.

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You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • ab

    I can’t disagree with you more. Instead, of creating a perfect bubble for little Johnny or Sally, maybe you should teach them that toy guns are toys, not real. And that real guns are dangerous. And maybe….just maybe…that killing people is wrong. Nothing gets under my skin more than this exact type of parental laziness, wherein parents attempt to remove all dangers from their children’s world. The world is dangerous. Children should be taught about the world’s dangers, not shielded from them.

    • http://twitter.com/MamaHasSnacks Carinn Jade

      Oddly I agree with you about not shielding our kids from life. I never even introduced a single measure of baby-proofing in my house because I think children must learn about even common dangers. However there are hundreds of ways to educate my children about guns, violence, and danger that do not involve letting them peg their friends with 75 soft dart bullets in 8 seconds.

    • alice

      I’m not sure that’s what she’s doing. There’s a difference between “parental laziness” and “not wanting to buy my son a toy gun because I see no point in it.” And there’s definitely ways to teach kids that real guns are dangerous without the juxtaposition of a fake one.

      Personally, I don’t mind the nerf launching toys or things that create an active target scenario instead of an imaginary play scenario. I don’t really care for plastic play revolvers or pistols because they don’t *do anything* – - the only thing you can do with them is *pretend to shoot bullets at people*

      nerf launchers, laser tag, paint ball: i’m okay with.

  • meteor_echo

    I’d suggest to do what my father did when I was a kid – teach your child about real guns and gun safety. Perhaps it would be educative to take your son to a shooting range, where an adult instructor could explain him about guns and where he could watch somebody fire a real gun. Then explain to him the difference between toy guns and real guns. I think that would work quite well – I’ve been taught knife and gun safety this way when I was around 5. I’m 25 – not a single accident yet.

    • AlbinoWino

      Maybe you could take your kid to the local morgue and teach them about death, too.

    • meteor_echo

      That, m’dear, is actually not a bad idea either. My mother gave me a book that explained death and such things, and I freely read her medical textbooks at the same age when I got to learn the gun safety thing. Guess what? I actually liked that I got explanations for things, like an adult. I appreciated it. Now jog on and don’t try to flame me, mkay?

    • alice

      This is interesting, because my fiance and I are having a quasi-argument right now about keeping a gun in the house. He owns a handgun. It’s in our house. It’s under our bed actually. We’ve both been trained. He goes to target practice often. I’ve gone about twice. I don’t like the idea of handguns. I don’t want one in my house. But it was a compromise and honestly 99% of the time I forget it even exists. As long as it’s locked, and we lock our house, then I’m *okay* with having it here. For now.

      I told him two days ago that when we have our first child, and that child is around two years old, we will be revisiting this “gun in the house” situation.

      My point of view: too many risk factors. i’m anxious enough, and don’t want/need the added worry of the 3-year old accidental shooting himself, the 7-18 year old “showing off my dad’s gun” or the depressed impulsive teenager using it for self-harm.

      We’ve gone over all the scenarios: from “they’ll never know it exists because we’ll keep it so well hidden!!!” to “we’ll take them to the gun range at 5 years old to teach them gun safety and respect!!!”

      I don’t like any of the options. I see downsides to all of them. Kids find everything that you hide. And I don’t want my future five-year old learning how to use a gun. I don’t think it’s a necessary skill for him. And I don’t like that I’m/We’re potentially *forced* to teach him how to fire a gun simply because Daddy Owns A Gun.

      We’ve gone over keeping it at a gunclub, which is actually my favorite scenario, but then it eliminates any of that “home protection” stuff.

      So it’s a no win situation for either of us. And i personally find it stupid. Stupid that we’re fighting over something that really means SO LITTLE to him. He’s not a member of the NRA. He’s not a vocal second amendment person. He’s as liberal as they come. But for some reason, he likes handguns. (between you and me, i think he thinks it’s cool, and then secondarily likes to mumble about home protection)

    • alice

      oh and you know i can’t reply to you without adding some suicide statistics. haha

      “Although most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home
      for “protection” or “self defense,” 83 percent of gun-related deaths in
      these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than
      the gun owner.”

      “Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides.”

      “Death by firearms is the fastest growing method of suicide.”

      “Firearms account for 50 percent of all suicides.”

    • Jessie

      Or, you could buy a safe (combination lock only) and lock up your gun. And actually talk to your children about guns.

    • alice

      The “combo safe” is among our options. I still see downsides to it.

      Out of curiosity: when you say “actually talk to your children about guns” do you mean educate them on gun use, on gun safety (with our actual gun) or on gun danger/respect (the general “guns are not toys” thing) or all/some of the above?

      I ask because I hear that a lot as a solution to minimizing gun related violence and I’m genuinely not sure if the suggestion is that “teaching kids how to use guns” = “kids/adults will never abuse guns”

      For me, combo safe or not, talking to my future kids about having a locked gun in our house is like talking to them about having a cache of porn in my closet. I can sit them down and “talk to them about sex” all i want; it’s not going to stop their curiosity.

    • alice

      ooo i should add, because i think this is not talked about enough: i live in boston. we’re not gun people here. my kids aren’t going to grow up with much exposure to guns. my neighbor isn’t going to take all the kids hunting and then for pizza afterwards. most everyone is going to grow up never having fired a gun. which is fine.

      i say this because it’s a reminder that parts of our country are vastly different. so the constant advice that we should all just teach our kids gun safety doesn’t ring true to everyone. if i taught my future son how to shoot a gun at 7 years old, you can bet he would be in the vast minority.

    • meteor_echo

      Frankly, it really depends upon the situation, so I’d suggest to really talk it out and get to a compromise that would suit you both. I actually grew up in a house that had not only guns, but GRENADES (that’s the 1988 Armenian war zone for you, so I doubt I’d be alive without having weapons in the house). I personally think that teaching a child to see a dangerous object, know what it’s capable of and respect the safety rules is a better way – you learn to be responsible about safety and danger early on.

      Re: suicide, I’d rather worry about the other 50% of the cases. I can say that I tried to use pills, and, on another occasion, a knife, but I would not pick a gun because it leaves a mess. People can kill themselves with a shoelace if they really want to. Just be responsible about keeping the gun in the safest place you can think of.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

      Seriously? If it’s locked up in a box and he’s got one key and you have another, it’s safe.

  • Jenna


    • Jenna

      Also, I’m interested in how you feel about water guns?

  • Trey

    Hello interwebs! I’ve just stumbled across this site and have been completely blown away by the scope and scale of this site. Some background information before I begin to try to explain myself. I am a 17 year old male, I live in the USA, specifically the South (you know, home of the Confederacy and iced tea) and I am mixed race (dark father, light mother). On the issue of gun control… Let me just say this, maybe, just maybe, it’s not Nerf’s fault that people kill themselves and others with firearms. Maybe it’s the person’s fault for taking such drastic action. I am an aspiring Marine Corps Infantryman, and as such have a good deal of interest in firearms. The funny thing about this is that my mother never let me have any type of toy weapon growing up as a child. She would take the guns off of my G.I. Joes, and Army Men, and would refrain from letting me even look at the “bad” toys in the store. However, I knew that the pieces were missing, and was then doubly curious about guns, this is why, as a 12 year old, I started shooting with a close friend multiple times a week. I probably would have had no desire to do so if I had been exposed to some from of gun before my pubescent years, the concept was so fascinating and new I had to try it. I think modern parents need to realize that sheltering your children is doing more harm than good. it certainly did for me. I now dive into each new experience with almost reckless abandon, and I realize it’s irresponsible, but I’m making up for lost time! So, to finish, LET YOUR KIDS BE KIDS!

  • Mandi

    As a college student, our twice-a-semester Humans vs. Zombies extravaganzas would be nothing without high-powered Nerf weaponry. I just wish these types of toys weren’t marketed for children, because a mounted Nerf rifle with a 30 dart clip is really only appropriate for a college student perched on top of the campus bell tower, firing at students with their zombie bandanas around their heads as the unsuspectingly walk to class.

  • Tim

    Guns are imbedded in our culture… Most inaccurately by the media as weapons of destruction as their primary purpose, as a means to procure meat and trophies by the NRA and hunters, as a means of self defense and keeping the government from getting too powerful by patriots…
    But one way or the other, they are there and they will be there – no matter if the government started taking them away tomorrow. The perception of mass shootings is overrated. The largest mass slaying in us history (school) was done with a home made bomb.
    I think it’s more important as a mentor to first, put it in perspective. Where guns are most restricted, crime is typically higher. Guns are more of a deterrent than signs that ban guns will ever be. The absolute vast majority of people who have guns would never use them for anything but ‘good’. And in the presence of such owners, evil people do less evil.
    Kids shooting off a kajillian rounds with a nerd gun? Meh. IF they are educated in the ways of real guns, safety, hazards, etc, they make the leap themselves.
    However, IF they are allowed to engage in first person shooter games too early (or ever IMO) then expect that the attitude towards the necessity to be safe to be less objectively necessary.
    Guns are neutral. They are here to stay. (Yes, their even more prevalent when their removed). The smartest thing to do doesn’t have to do with toy guns. It’s developing a respect of life and a selfless attitude towards others. Because with or without guns, if they don’t know the value
    and dignity of life, then all they need is a rock.