ABC: Kids will play with guns

Little kids will play with guns, even while telling each other “don’t touch” and “tell an adult,” ABC’s Young Guns report shows. And they’re good at figuring out where their parents have hid guns. (Two words: gun safe.)

When you “plant two real, unloaded guns among toys and a backpack in grade school classroom and then tell kids that, while unsupervised, they should indulge in some nearby candy,” they just might touch the guns, Reason‘s Hit&Run scoffs.

“Every other day, a child is shot to death,” says Diane Sawyer, citing a new study. 

“But, the study doesn’t match the ABC’s far-fetched image of young kids finding guns among their playthings in school,” responds Hit&Run. It includes 18- and 19-year-olds who are legal adults able to buy rifles.

A mom decides: Gun play is good for boys

When her sons were young, Christine Gross-Loh gave them blocks, puzzles and cooperative games, but no guns. She’s changed her mind about toy guns, she writes in The Atlantic.

When her older son was four, he got a plastic toy gun in a birthday party goodie bag.

My son was utterly riveted. I tried to coax it away from him. “Bang bang!” he shouted, running around with the other kids. Just days later my shy little two year old fixated upon a toy sword that came with a pirate toy someone had given him, and would not go anywhere without it. I could see that the ludicrously small sword made him feel brave.

When the boys were three and five, the family moved to Tokyo, where boys play “all sorts of rough-and-tumble war games.”

Our Japanese public elementary school even gave out water guns to all the kids at a summer festival every year. Every single child got one — even three-year-old siblings. The first time I saw the kids screaming with laughter as they shot at each other over and over in the schoolyard, I was surprised by how the adults could be so blasé. They didn’t just tolerate the play: the teachers and even the principal helped fill the kids’ guns with water and ran around shooting and battling alongside their students. They actually encouraged the children, both boys and girls, to play with toy guns.

Almost no Japanese adults own firearms, Gross-Loh writes. There are very few shooting deaths.

. . . ever since living abroad in a society where young kids are allowed so many outlets for their energy, I have come to believe that one of the secrets of Asian boys’ self-regulation is the way that aggressive play is seen as a normal stage of childhood, rather than demonized and hidden out of sight.

Research doesn’t show that gun play desensitizes kids to violence, Gross-Loh writes. “Play helps children learn how to signal each other: this is fantasy.”

Imaginary play hones self-regulation, which is essential for school success but has declined in recent decades. (Today’s five year olds have the self-regulation skills of a three year old 60 years ago). Research has found that incorporating preschool boys’ interest in weapon play rather than banning it entirely leads them to play longer, more elaborate games that go beyond mere weapon play.

Worried about boys falling behind girls in school, the British education ministry has urged preschool teachers to allow boisterous play, including play with toy weapons, Gross-Loh writes.

Zero tolerance for boys’ play could backfire

Zero tolerance for imaginary gun play is “psychotic” as in “out of touch with reality,” says Dr. Leonard Sax, a Pennsylvania psychologist and family physician. 

“Out-of-touch policies such as these, which criminalize behaviors which have always been common among young kids, are contributing to the growing proportion of American kids, especially boys, who regard school as a stupid waste of time and who can’t wait to get out of school so that they can get back to playing their video games,” Sax said.

Sax is the author of Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.

Remember the five-year-old interrogated and suspended for bringing a cap gun on the school bus? Maryland school officials have refused the parents’ request to remove the suspension from the kindergartener’s permanent record.

School holds toy gun exchange

A California elementary school is holding a toy gun exchange, offering students a book and a chance to win a bicycle if they turn in their play weapons, reports the Hayward Daily Review.

Strobridge Elementary Principal Charles Hill sees toy guns as a gateway to the real thing. “Playing with toys guns, saying ‘I’m going to shoot you,’ desensitizes them, so as they get older, it’s easier for them to use a real gun,” Hill said.

A police officer will demonstrate bicycle and gun safety, a fire crew will discuss fire safety and parents will be offered fingerprinting and photographing of their children.

New threat: Talking about Nerf guns

It’s bad enough when little kids are kicked out of school for bubble shooters, cap guns, gun-shaped pastry and Lego guns, etc. In Washington state, a 6-year-old was suspended for talking about the Nerf guns his family had bought on a recent trip. A classmate told the teacher that Noah had a gun with him. Even when it was clear he did not, he was suspended for a “threat.”

(Mike) Aguirre said he and his wife were told their son was suspended for talking about guns at school, and because the girl who reported him felt her “health and safety were threatened” when they were called to the school last week. Officials said the issue is addressed in the district’s discipline handbook in the section on student rights and responsibilities.

But Aguirre said there’s no provision that students are prohibited from talking about guns at school, nor did the district provide evidence that the boy threatened to harm a student.

After meeting with the parents, district officials downgraded Noah’s suspension to a “disruption.”

Via Legal Insurrection, which also links to the many recent cases of zero tolerance for common sense.

Persecuting boys for being boys is “a kind of quasi-religious fanaticism,” writes Glenn Harlan Reynolds in USA Today. “I think it’s about the administrative class — which runs the schools with as little input from parents as possible — doing its best to exterminate the very idea of guns. It’s some sort of wacky moral-purity crusade.”

Maryland eyes ‘Pastry Gun Freedom Act’

To prevent the criminalization of boyhood, a Maryland legislator has proposed the “Toaster Pastry Gun Freedom Act” banning schools from punishing children for having something that might look like a gun but isn’t,  reports The Daily Caller. (Really, it’s called the Reasonable School Discipline Act.)

The bill also includes a section mandating counseling for school officials who fail to distinguish between guns and things that resemble guns. School officials who fail to make such a distinction more than once would face discipline themselves.

Sen. J. B. Jennings, a Republican, worries that suspensions will go on children’s “permanent records,” he told the Star Democrat.

Recently, a second-grade boy at a Baltimore school was suspended for two days because his teacher thought he’d nibbled a strawberry  toaster pastry into the shape of a gun. School officials sent a letter to parents — for real — offering counseling to students traumatized by the incident, reports Reason’s Hit&Run, which notes it’s not clear whether students were expected to be troubled by the snack or the suspension.

In the last few months, six-year-old boys at two Maryland elementary schools were suspended for pointing fingers and saying “pow” while playing.

Of course, not-gun hysteria is a nationwide phenomenon.

In Colorado, a second grader was suspended for pretending to throw a grenade at “evil forces” in order to “save the world.”  The school has a zero tolerance policy for real or pretend fighting. His mom thinks a child shouldn’t be suspended for trying to save the world — and maybe it’s not realistic to ban little boys from playing at soldiers.

Teacher’s got a gun

Arming educators is a reality in some places and under serious consideration in others, reports Education Week.

 In Utah, school employees have been able to carry concealed weapons onto campus for about a decade—without telling a soul—and at least four Texas school districts are known to have granted select employees permission to take concealed weapons to school.

A rural Texas district, Southland is 15 miles from the nearest law-enforcement agencies, says Superintendent Toby Miller. Deciding “we are the first responders,”  Southland is training some of its employees to carry guns.

The armed employees, a small subset of the district’s 32-member staff, went through mental-health screenings and trained for their concealed-weapons licenses together. The training will be ongoing, he said, as long as Southland employees carry weapons. And the guns fire so-called frangible ammunition, which breaks into small pieces on contact, preventing ricochet.

Armed staffers must carry their weapon at all times in a concealed holster: Guns cannot be carried in a purse or locked in a desk.

Michael S. Dorn, who runs the nonprofit Safe Havens International, worries about a new attitude among school employees since the Newtown shootings: “Now, I’m supposed to die” to defend students.

Dorn, a former school police chief, thinks too many teachers and administrators have switched to attack mode. “We’re seeing so many [school employees] saying they would attack” someone, he said, “whether it’s two parents coming into the office arguing over a custody issue or people pulling a handgun but not actually shooting anybody.”

A few weeks ago, a school principal told me she’s been thinking about whether she’d give her life to protect her students from a gunman as the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary did. Another woman said. “I’d want a gun.”

Other schools are taking a different tack: Marietta, Georgia public schools are installing “panic buttons” that call 911.  At an Alabama school, teachers and staff wear panic buttons around their necks that trigger a school lockdown.

School OKs deaf child’s name sign

After banning a preschooler from signing his name – they think it looks like a gun – Grand Island, Nebraska school officials have relented. Three-year-old Hunter Spanjer wil be allowed to use his name sign. (There’s a video at the link of the boy making the sign. It doesn’t look like anything in particular to me.)

The boy’s family registered his sign with S.E.E. which stands for Signing Exact English. He uses crossed-fingers to show it is uniquely his own. When Hunter’s parents were told the sign violates the district’s weapons policy, they threatened to bring in lawyers from the National Association of the Deaf.

I wonder if Grand Island objects to Hunter’s name in spoken English. After all, what do hunters use?

‘Peace studies’ expand at community colleges

“Peace Studies” and conflict resolution programs are expanding at community colleges. Global and environmental issues often are included.

As states expand concealed-carry rights, college officials worry about guns on campus.

Smart phone, stupid choices

“Gunna be at West Hall,” a Lanier Technical College texted, trying to tell a friend he was going to West Hall High School in Hall County, Georgia. But the smart phone’s auto-correct feature changed the message to “Gunman to be at West Hall.”

Then the student misdialed, sending the message to a stranger. That person called 911. The college and the high school were locked down for two hours till police determined the texter was armed only with his phone.