Holy crap, alrighty then, guess we’re throwing away all of our toy guns

Okay, so this is no secret, but I’m not a huge fan of guns. Don’t get me wrong, I come from Texas where most of my friends owned plenty of guns and I’m not trying to take away people’s gun rights, and I think there are perfectly reasonable reasons to own a gun. But honestly speaking, they’re not my favorite thing.

So when Holden would walk into Toys R Us back in the day (wahhhhhhhhhh, I miss youuu) and ask me to buy him a gun, I’d be like not gonna happen. No toy guns that look like machine guns, no toy guns that look like pistols, no toy guns that look like rifles, etc etc etc. With two exceptions. Water guns and nerf guns.

I don’t know why I thought these kind of guns were different, but I did. Maybe because they were made with bright colors and not made to look like a real gun. So when Holden wanted a nerf gun, I was like “okie-dokie, kiddo.” Shit, I hope I didn’t actually use those words. Shit, I probably did. Anyways, we got him a nerf gun. And when he wanted a bigger nerf gun with a magazine that held nerf bullets, I was like sure. And when he wanted an ammo vest to hold even more nerf bullets, I was like woohooo, the perfect present. And I would let him go in our backyard and I’d stack cans and milk cartons on our playhouse and he could have target practice. Did I like seeing him all weaponed up like he was Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator? Nope. Not so much. But he was happy and entertained and I could fit in a real shower without interruption. 

And honestly, even if you don’t give you son toy guns, they’ll figure out a way. They’ll turn a stick into a gun, or a bagel into a gun, or build a gun out of LEGOs and make little peew peew peew noises and shoot their friend across the table. So what was the harm in giving him a bright blue and orange plastic gun? I was all about the nerf guns. Until the other day.

So I’m in the kitchen having a relaxing moment washing the dishes without anyone bothering me when I hear Holden and his playdate in the other room. I hear the pop of a nerf bullet and then…

HOLDEN: Got him!!

So I stopped washing dishes for a minute to go check and that’s when I saw it. They were shooting nerf guns… AT THE CAT. Our very slow very old nineteen-year-old cat.

Oh hellllll noooooo. Based on the fact thatHolden was the one shooting and his friend was giggling on the couch, I’m pretty sure it was Holden’s idea. I don’t know exactly what I said to him, but I think my head spun around and venom projectile shot out of my mouth.

Kids do naughty shit all the time. You wanna write on the walls? You will be punished. You wanna talk back? You will be punished. You want to shoot small defenseless little animals with nerf bullets? You will be punished like you have no idea. And he was. 

Screen time gone for a week. Dessert gone for a week. Nerf guns gone. NOT for a week. FOREVER. Once his friend was picked up, I made Holden walk around the house and collect ALL of his nerf guns and now they are sitting in our donation pile and will go to some kid who will hopefully use them to shoot inanimate objects. And ONLY inanimate objects.

But later that evening, after my blood stopped boiling and my canines shrunk back down to normal size, I talked to Holden about why he should never ever shoot an animal.

ME: Hey buddy, how do you think that made the cat feel that you were shooting him?

HOLDEN: (with tears in his eyes) Bad. And sad.

ME: Is that how you want him to feel?

HOLDEN: No.

And he walked over to the cat and crouched next to him and whispered, “I’m sorry for shooting you,” and gave him a big hug.

And all evening I was feeling super guilty about even owning toy guns in the first place. But then I realized something. Maybe it’s a good thing we bought nerf guns after all. It gave me a moment to teach Holden that there’s a right way to use a gun (target shooting in the backyard) and a very wrong way to use it (on anything alive).

Will he be getting his nerf guns back? Hell to the no. But at least now I know that if he goes to someone else’s house who has nerf guns, he probably won’t to use them to shoot their golden retriever. And he knows that if he does, he’ll be grounded for the rest of his life. Which will be a very short life because that’s how mad I might be.

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There are 15 comments for this article
  1. Cara at 11:07 am

    Thank you for writing this! We just had a similar issue and got rid of all of ours. I also had to unwrap and return 2 presents. Our kids will know it’s not acceptable to treat animals like that!

  2. Jessica at 11:17 am

    My son accidentally shot our dog with a Nerf bullet a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t get punished for shooting her because I honestly didn’t know what happened and promised he would not be punished for telling me the truth (but would definitely be punished for lying). He was crying when I got to him and it took about 10 minutes of me talking to him to get him to tell me what happened; I was in another room when it happened.

    He did lose the Nerf gun (it was the only one we owned, also in the donate pile) and had to apologize to the dog. We talked about why what he did was not a good choice and what a better choice would be.

  3. Heather at 11:22 am

    We live in a rural town in NH, where people legitimately hunt to feed their families, so the gun issue is a sensitive one. My son’s father’s family, big hunters, my family, NOT big hunters. The rule for us was ALWAYS, no matter if it is a toy gun, a toy that looks like a gun, or a gun that shoots “real” bullets, treat every gun as though it is real, and as though it is loaded. And the only thing alive that you were allowed to shoot at was something you were planning to eat.

  4. knockingonfortysdoor at 11:36 am

    We’re getting our 6yo his first Nerf gun for Christmas and this is exactly why I’m not exvited about it. I think you did the exact right thing and I’m so grateful to you for sharing because I’ve been debating how to lay down the ground rules for this you and the consequences for breaking those rules.

  5. Candace Gosson at 11:50 am

    We have the same rule in our house. I’ve always banned toy guns including water guns, but like you, for whatever reason I somewhat reluctantly gave in when it came to nerf guns. Our rules stand as: you accidentally hit someTHING that is not meant to be hit, it’s gone for the day (as you were obviously not using/aiming it properly), you hit someONE by accident, it’s gone for a week, you hit someONE, including the pets/wildlife, on purpose- kiss it goodbye.

  6. Antoinette at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I have 2 sons and I caught the older one while playing cops and robbers holding a water gun which is the only kind of gun i ever allowed them to play with to his brothers head. I was absolutely livid. I broke all the water guns in the house and i dont allow the boys to have any at all anymore. My friends mostly think I am ridiculous but I dont care. It feels good to know there are other parents out there who feel the same way.

  7. Rick vance at 1:06 pm

    Take this as a good teaching time with your kids, or someone else will do it for you. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. They use guns and knives and rocks and sticks etc. So do you think we should out law or do away with all of these things too. When you can’t protect your self then anyone can do what ever they want to us. Guns keep people from running over us. If they think you don’t have a gun for protection and I do , they will leave me alone and go after you.
    Use this as a good time to teach gun safety shoot at only the things you want to kill. Kill only what you eat and eat whatever you kill.
    Everyone is waiting on society to teach our kids. Not at my house . Use this time to do the right thing or someone else will pervert it to teach what they want.

    • Kimberley Hlina at 7:19 pm

      People with guns kill people. Guns alone don’t do it. They don’t load themselves, unlock themselves from gun safes, buy ammo for themselves. Sorry, but nope.
      Look at MANY other cultures and countries that have stronger gun laws and you’ll see how effective it can be to have less access and fewer guns.

      Don’t know who you think it going to “pervert” what to whom, but more guns does not = more safety.

  8. KC at 1:43 pm

    Our kids are long grown up, but reading this brings me right back to the days! THANK YOU for teaching responsibility and compassion, traits that are sometimes too hard to find in our society today. Bless you all!

  9. Kristen Nauss at 3:01 pm

    I’m going to be the odd person out in this conversation. Our children own Nerf guns. In fact, our oldest daughter (11yrs) owns a Nerf gun, a compound bow, and she will be getting a 20-gauge shotgun for Christmas. People don’t understand that with buying these toys comes extreme responsibility on the parent’s part. Even yes, a silly Nerf gun. Our toys come with ground rules and expectations. If the kids break those rules or don’t live up to those expectations, consequences are engaged. When we give our kids these tools, but don’t have instruction and rules given and taught as well, how can we expect them to be responsible and also accountable for their actions? I fully get that there’s a certain level of right and wrong, but if we as parents aren’t setting all of this up at the get-go, we are opening a whole can of worms that our poor kids suffer from. As for our daughter – she hunts. She’s been through training, certification, and hunts with an adult. She also knows that if she ever shoots even her Nerf gun at anyone or any animal, that toy goes away for a while – if not forever. Once again, education FIRST, then consequences.

    • Amy at 9:27 pm

      This exactly! You don’t hand a kid a marker without saying this is to write on the paper only. So don’t hand a kids a gun of any kind toy or real without explaining and teaching!

  10. Krisnh5 at 6:55 pm

    I kinda get it but it the parents responsibility either way to teach the kids the right and wrong way to use any gun. Once hes grown you cant stop him so it’s better they learn while they’re young. Obviously there should be punishment for shooting an animal, but I would have given it another chance cause if u take something away from them they love that much they’re gonna want it even more and when they can have it you’re gotta have to face that they have them and might even hunt animals. At least you can say you taught them the right way instead of them using one with no knowledge cause that’s how a lot of people get shot…my kids never shoot. Maybe when they’re bigger but we’ve always since the toddler yrs have taught them all how to hold, handle and pass a gun and what to do and to NEVER do. So whether they grow up to love or hate guns, at least we taught them how to use one and what to use it on.

  11. Bryan at 1:39 am

    So you buy your son a nerf gun and don’t lay down any ground rules or teach him gun safety? Shame on you, not your son. Just like in The Christmas Story with the Red Ryder BB gun a Nerf gun can take an eye out. You are to blame for your sons actions not him. You should have showed him how to properly use a gun. Bad parenting on your end, feel sorry for your son being punished for your mistakes. Guns don’t commit acts of violence, people that are untaught, untrained, and uneducated about the proper use of guns do. Once again SHAME ON YOU.

  12. Sabra at 7:40 pm

    So my boys were both proud owners of nerf guns, because while I believe in guns and gun rights I DO NOT believe in giving a child anything that looks like a real gun, however as a boy mom I agreed that bright orange and blue neef guns were somewhat different. I say were proud owners not because they have grown, although they have (11 & 16) but because even after being told and reminded that the only thing they were allowed to shoot was no living items…although that rule was hard when nerf guns came with vests to wear with your friends to have wars…grrrr…nerf made momming hard…anyways they still choose at one point each in his own time to shoot the nerf gun at a pet…I am sure it was boys well being boys but just like you I went ballistic, I gathered all of the guns and actually gave them to another family down the street, sorry, no I made the boys give them to the other family stating that they had misused them and mom wasn’t about to let them stay in the house. Do they still play nerf guns and paint ball at other peoples house, hell yeah I am sure they do, has another parent ever said my son shot the family pet, nope. You did the right thing…gun ownership even nerf gun ownership has boundaries and consequences. Thanks for touching on this subject it feels so good reading this and the comments knowing other moms have struggled with this issue and have handled it in similar fashion.

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