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A boy making a toy gun out of a stick - that's them using their imagination. The parents buying toy guns, that's the parents encouraging it. Two completely different things, in my opinion.
If my son plays with it in someone's house, sure. Temporary. But I won't go out of my way to buy it for them and if he gets it as a present from someone else, I'll be putting it away. My son can play with cars, planes, boats, Lego. Just not guns. I don't see the need.
I have mixed feeling on this.
I'm sure most of us who have brothers grew up with toy guns. They were for playing Cowboys and Indian, Cops and Robbers or G.I Joe. It was for play and was very typical in most homes.
Now days our TV is filled with violence in shows as well as the Nightly news.
Either way, boys will still be boys and find something to make a into gun.
I guess it is how you choose to approach it with your child.
I am not opposed to toy guns. When they play with squirt guns, I say not to shoot at anybody's head. Any other guns that they have are dart and disc, and I tell them that we do not point guns at people. They shoot at targets. I will allow them to play laser tag when they are older too, but they have not done that yet. I think the violent shows and games are not a good idea, but toy guns do not bother me. I will say that I find it annoying when a child I do not know comes up and is pretending to shoot me with a toy gun, but I correct my own children and they have been fine so far.
I am struggling with this issue too. A couple weeks ago, Leah watched Star Wars for the first time and loved it, so my DH dug out all his old toys from the attic. He had an old Han Solo blaster, which Leah has played with a bit. I am not fond of toy guns, yet at the same time, Leah was playing with it in a very specific way - to act as Leia or Han Solo and to re-create the movie with my DH. She hasn't played with it otherwise. So, I'm inclined to leave it as pretend play even though it's not my favorite thing for her to play with.
I don't buy toy guns, but the kids all have toy light sabers they use (thanks to DH's Star Wars addiction being passed down to the kids)... My rule is you use them at targets not people. Right now that rule works, so we leave it at that. I'm not going to encourage gun play, and the older kids know that DH uses a gun at work to protect himself and others. I don't really want the kids thinking guns are toys, they are a weapon that has to be respected.