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Can Johnny Come Out and Play? 

by Peter W. Wickham, Jr.

Recently my daughter Jamie began attending a local college to work on her degree in Early Childhood Education. As part of her studies she must spend a certain amount of time working in the on-campus Day Care Center to get actual experience dealing with young children. Now one of these little tikes, a boy I shall call Johnny, likes to point with his hand or pick up any other toy or stick and play that he is shooting a gun. This activity is absolutely forbidden and every regular employee in the Center jumps on the boy's case speaking to him repeatedly in very firm voices to stop, don't do that, and don't ever do that again. And little Johnny will listen and stop, but like any little four or five year old he's back at it within five minutes and the whole cycle repeats itself over and over again. 

When my daughter told me about this situation, I asked her to find out why such a policy was in effect. One of her professors, the head of the department, related a story where a study was conducted by a friend of this professor. Several youngsters of this age group were divided into two class rooms. One group received a firearm safety lecture which sounds very similar to the NRA Eddie Eagle program (Don't touch, stay away, tell an adult) and the other group received no such lecture. Then someone placed a handgun on a table in each room (I hope unloaded and inactivated). The children that received the lecture noticed the firearm, did not touch it, and discussed amongst themselves that they needed to tell an adult but when an adult did not come into the classroom for nearly 30 minutes, one of the little boys went up to the table, picked up the handgun, pointed it at a little girl and pulled the trigger. The same event occurred in the other room. The conclusion of this study: Firearm safety programs are useless for children in this age group. My daughter's professor also decided the best program to keep children from misusing firearms when they are older is to not allow them to play with toy firearms, including pretending with their own hands, while they are younger. 

Now let's "play" this one out to its logical conclusion. Since about two hundred children are killed each year accidentally with firearms, to prevent these accidents we don't allow children to play "Cops and Robbers" or "Cowboys and Indians" or engage in any activity in which they simulate the use of firearms. A lot more children are killed in automobile collisions each year so we shouldn't allow them to play they are driving or riding in an automobile. Of course we can go all the way and ban them from riding in automobiles altogether, regardless of seat belts, car seats, and air bags. And since about 50% of a fatal automobile collisions are caused by drunk driving, we shouldn't allow children to pretend they are drinking anything (sorry little lady, you can't have that tea party) so they don't get into the habit of drinking. Then again we should go so far as to stop them from actually drinking anything. The water's not so good, milk has become questionable, and soda has too much sugar and caffeine. Don't care how thirsty those little boogers get, don't let them drink. 

And then the environment! More children are killed each year by allergic reaction to insect bites and stings than are accidentally killed with firearms. And the air outside isn't as clean as it used to be. You never know what carcinogens may be floating up your nostrils. To be on the safe side we need to keep the kids inside. But is that safe? Carbon Monoxide, Radon, and Asbestos may be lurking about to snuff out that young life. And what about their inactivity and overeating leading to obesity and other health problems. And the dangers of eating! More children die each year from choking on their food than are accidentally killed with firearms. Don't care how hungry those rugrats get, don't let them eat. 

So what's the best program to keep your child safe from the dangers in this world? When they are born, place them in a wooden box proportionate to their size and nail on the lid. They will die within a few short hours but they will have lived a safe life. Which brings us to our two options; allow our children to live their lives with all the pitfalls and snares of this planet and they may just make it to 72 (longer if they are female) or shut them away as if they were never born. 

Jamie and her younger brother, Christopher, were born into and raised in a household of guns. They knew where all the guns were stored and they knew not to touch them without their father's permission and supervision. They knew that at any time they wanted to see one of Dad's guns, they just had to ask. They were taught how to open and clear any weapon (if my son had been the little boy in the study, he would have removed the magazine, opened the slide or cylinder, and stuck a pencil or crayon into the works so that the weapon would be inactivated) and how to check to see if they are loaded at a very young age. When they were old enough to hold the guns (about four or five) they were allowed to fire them (at first the recoil and blast [yes they were wearing hearing protection] made it so they didn't want to repeat the experience anytime soon but they grew into it). And my children played with toy guns. Our (yes I played with them too) favorite was the NerfTM guns which fire the polyfoam projectiles by force of air. With these weapons I taught my children the use of cover and concealment and how to lay down suppressing fire when you didn't have either. And they practiced with BB guns when we couldn't fire the larger weapons. 

Today Jamie can blow the smithereens out of soda cans with a .38 snubbie from ten yards. Christopher can be handed any new weapon, given a quick explanation of how it works, and allowed a few practice rounds, and within fifteen minutes any target within the range of that weapon is his for the asking. And both of them will be law-abiding gun owning adults. How do I know this? They've already told me which parts of my arsenal they are taking when they leave the nest (over my dead b...well as my wife says, a good father has to make sacrifices for the good of his children; wait till she gets the bill to replace the ones they take). 

Regardless of what the "experts" tell you, children can be taught effective gun safety. My two are living proof. And little Johnny can play guns and not grow up to be a serial killer. Play is built into the cycle of life. Young animals and young humans use play to learn the skills of life they will need in their adult life. To suppress play is to suppress learning which leads to suppressing life. Yes, Johnny should be able to come out and play. 

Peter W. Wickham Jr. (AKA The Ol' Grey Ghost) is the Editor In Chief for  © Copyright 2000 All rights reserved. Visit our site to view our project showing states that are safe/unsafe to live in and why, at Our goal is to have all 50 states done, and we welcome assistance for the states that are not yet done.


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In our inner cities, where firearms are outlawed, only outlaws are armed. When our "philosopher kings" sit back and do nothing, this is the tyranny and terror of "gun control." —CHARLTON HESTON

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