My Kid Loves Guns, and I Don’t

lego Han Solo looking at a gunI am in a bit of a pickle,  my youngest loves guns, and I don’t.  It is not quite as easy as all that, nothing ever is. It is not that I don’t like guns so much as I am very concerned about what people do with them.  

As I kid I remember going to Cub Scout camps and Boy Scout camps.  I remember with great fondness getting to shoot at the BB gun range, and later at the rifle range.  I remember earning my Rifle and Shotgun Shooting merit badge.  These things were big deals to me and were part of a very happy childhood.

So here I sit as a father with a kid that loves anything that has to do with a gun.  He wants the toys, the video games, and more chances to shoot at something.  The truth is I get it.  At his age my passions were similar, I wanted a BB gun like many of my friends had.  I played the original first-person shooter games.  I enjoyed them.  They were fun, and here I am a dad who has no desire to own a gun, and with deep concerns about how guns affect our society.

He is a very good, very caring kid.  He is the first one to notice if someone is excluded and try to include them.  He will set aside what he wants to do to make sure kids younger than him get the attention they need and have a good time.  He wants to help those less fortunate than he is.  He is a very good kid. Why is it that this one passion of his makes me so uncomfortable? As his father, I want to engage his passions, but how worried should I be that, if I let him explore and/or encourage his love of guns, I will have to worry about him doing something very wrong with a gun?

The older I get, the more, I find myself faced with task of trying to understand the terrible things that people do with guns. All too often I am confronted with another story of how someone has been the victim of a violent and senseless gun crime. Instead of intelligent discussion about the problem over and over I see two camps quickly form. There those that respond in fear that they will lose their rights to own guns as a result of the most recent incident, and another that responds in fear that if they don’t affect some change that someone they love could be the next victim.

Real debate and real conversation about this problem never seems to happen though. Both sides seem to get their 15 minutes of talking points out until we are no longer entertained and something else grabs our attention. Nothing changes and then when it happens again, we all seem surprised by it and then we repeat the cycle.

I am concerned.  I am concerned that so much of the focus of our video game/entertainment content we enjoy is focused on violent conflict resolution.  I am concerned that when I turn on the news it seems that the world would rather threaten or actually fight wars rather than sit down and talk out differences.  I am concerned that when it comes to conflict resolution that de-escalation is less emphasized than balance of lethal force.  I am concerned that the answer to how to find peace and safety is by increasing the amount of deadly force available to everyone. I am concerned that the right to bear arms trumps the right to be alive. 

There is a very rational part of me that understands that since the beginning of time it is sex and violence that sells.  In high school and college we all knew the result of the latest football game, we never knew how the debate team fared or how well our school performed in the model UN. Homer knew it when he told his epic poems, Shakespeare knew it as he wrote his plays. Video game makers, television networks, and the entertainment industry know what sells and they are in the business of making money and they are very good at it.  I just happen to be in the business of raising good men, which means I need to be aware of what my kids are passionate about and what they are engaged in.

If you started reading this hoping that I could tell you what the best way to deal with this issue is, I have to disappoint you. I don’t know the answers. I enjoy violent movies and TV, I play violent video games; but I am cautious about how I raise my kids how much of that kind of entertainment they get exposed to before I think they are ready for it. I am just a man in the thick of it struggling in a violent word to raise boys who value peace. I don’t have the answers, all I can tell you this is a difficult problem, and there is no easy solution.

The bottom line for me is that I want the best for my children.  I want to encourage their passions.  I want them to grow up happy.  I want them to have a childhood they look back on fondly.  I want to help them develop the skills and talents they will need to be successful in life.  I desperately want to help them avoid making a mistake that threatens their future or the future of someone else’s child.

(This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project )

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