Boys and Guns

How should I respond to my son's fascination with firearms? At thirteen years of age he's already made himself an expert on anything that shoots – everything from pistols to semi-automatic rifles to bazookas. He doesn't own any real guns. But he does have an airsoft rifle and a paintball gun, and I think he spends too much time fooling around with them. As his mother I find all of this a bit unnerving. Should I be concerned? What's your perspective on boys and guns?

As you may know, any discussion of guns from any viewpoint whatsoever has the potential to morph into a controversial, politically charged debate. We have no desire to open that can of worms. But we can provide you with a few basic thoughts on the psychological and developmental aspects of “gun fascination” in young boys.

We’ll begin by suggesting that parents in your situation need to exercise a little discernment. To be more specific, we think you have to be very careful not to turn this into a bigger issue than it really is. Don’t rock the boat unnecessarily. As you’ve noticed, boys are naturally drawn to games that many mothers tend to regard as unnecessarily “violent.” They like cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, and toy soldiers. It’s just the way they’re wired. For the most part, toy guns are simply a part of this kind of play. As long as it’s kept within this context, a child’s fascination with guns is probably harmless and benign.

When a boy gets older and his interest expands to include paintball guns, air guns, or even real firearms, it’s still possible to say that his behavior is just typically masculine. It might even be understood as an expression of his desire to access power and use it in the universal conflict between good and evil. From a certain perspective, his actions can be interpreted as a sign that he’s in the process of developing an inward moral compass.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Sometimes gun-oriented play becomes destructive or mean-spirited. In other cases, a boy makes the transition from air guns to real guns and starts engaging in behavior that could be considered genuinely dangerous or pathological. When this happens, parents need to intervene. This is an ever-present possibility in contemporary society, where kids are surrounded by violent movies, TV shows, music, and computer/video games. Your son’s temperament, emotional maturity, psychological profile, and attitudes toward other people all come into play in determining exactly how he is likely to develop in terms of his ideas about the use of firearms.

If you think it might be beneficial to discuss your concerns at greater length with a member of the Focus team, please give us a call. Our counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone for a free consultation.



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