Do Toy Nerf Guns Make Kids Violent?
The other day, a group of friends brought over some kids they were taking care of. Everyone knew I had a stash of Nerf guns, left over from when my son was young, and the little ones wanted to play "blaster tag."
As we loaded the "weapons" and began to play, I thought hard about what I had learned from raising my son about how these toys impacted his interest in actual guns.
We are lefty liberals who eschew gun ownership and believe owning weapons harms the USA more than it does good. And yet, my son and I fired Nerf guns at each other almost daily for years when he was little, supplemented by toy foam swords and pillows, which we used as shields. Our battles were vigorous, protracted, and very, very fun.
My son is now 16. He's an immensely strong athlete who lifts weights and plays basketball. He's also the gentlest, sweetest boy I know, with not a single mean bone in his body. He hates guns, would never consider going into the military, and loves kittens. He eats meat, but I'm pretty sure that will change once he fully realizes where it comes from. He is an animal lover to the nth degree.
Nerf guns may promote a love of guns among children that stays with them through adulthood, but my own experience, with my son, suggests that this is certainly not inevitable. As the statisticians would say, it's only an "N of 1," and I should read the literature before speaking more broadly.
From my experience with my son, however, I can confidently say that "no, Nerf guns do not necessarily lead to a pro-gun mindset, even in the most toxic of masculine teenage years.