Saturday, January 8, 2011


I watched my thirteen year old son leave the house this afternoon with a semi-automatic NightProwler SA rifle swung over his shoulder, and a Stinger P36 pistol stuffed in his pocket, and I felt rather, shall we say, muddygrappling with an uneasiness, somberness. After all, I had made the purchase. Me, the one who'd always been philosophically opposed to firearms in the house, and especially in my son's hands. And while Max's weapons are not real guns (well, actually they are real guns), as they are of the AirSoft variety, I still didn't feel quite right about his mission.

These guns are supposed to be toys, a caricature of the real thing, yet they have the potential to harm. They are modern day versions of the BB gun, only, unlike the BB (with some minor exceptions), the point of games played with the AirSoft includefor the most partother boys as target. Max claims that the ammo, 6mm pellets, doesn't hurt a bit. (You mean that red welt didn't bother you one smack?!) I tried not to think about him getting sprayed, or loading the magazine, as I watched him gingerly bound down the snow-covered road.

Yes, I bought this gun for my son. Me. The neurotic mother (I wasn't always this way). But it was not an easy purchase. About a week before Christmas, I still could not bring myself to buy an AirSoft—safety concerns overwhelming me. I knew, though, that Max had been out with his friends, had borrowed guns, had already ducked behind woodland trees and scrub, shot at targets, other kids, battled in semi-pretend warfare. But he wanted an AirSoft of his own—so that he could freely engage with his friends. I had said No for the past two years. Two years. That's a lot of Nos.

Those two years ago, when Max first asked for an AirSoft gun, I did my research, poked online and found that most dads considered them harmless, thought they were great. Moms even found them safe. I nearly felt betrayed by this, having trouble digging up an argument to support my polar opposite beliefsuntil I found an article from a California Police Department warning parents that if a gun looks real, whether a toy or not, they must respond in kind. I even found this Special Public Safety Notice from the Salem County Prosecutor's Office. It's all I needed to place an immediate moratorium on even the thought of guns.

But only a few days before Christmas, my husband put it to me this way: Look, what's the worse of two evils, an AirSoft or an XBox? At least the AirSoft will get him outside with his friends.

Are you kidding, I replied, these are our only options? Indeed, the two items were the only items on Max's Christmas list.

So I did it. I held my breath and went straight to the Hunting department at Dick's Sporting Goods. A young man behind the counter was too eager to assist me. You don't understand, I said, I don't want to make this purchase. Give me a gun that doesn't look like a gun. Give me a gun that won't hurt a fly. Give me a gun my son would hate.

We worked it all out, the young man and I, and I left with the camouflaged NightProwler, biodegradable pellets, camouflaged gloves, a full face mask, hard plastic goggles, a padded hat, a bright orange vest, and targets (as in paper targets).

Christmas morning was bittersweet. Max was ecstatic. I felt... well yes, muddy. But after the present was opened, after Max had fondled and stroked and admired the hardware enough, after it had all been expended, splayed out on the floor, I read him the riot act—told him he'd be taking a gun safety class, listed caveats, blah, blah, blah (the blah blah part most likely being all he heard).

Today he went into combat without the benefit of the gun safety class. But we'll get to it. Soon. He's read the manual, though, he's keeping the safety on, safely storing the guns. Yet I don't feel like it's quite enough. I keep searching for evidence. I want him to know that there's always a horror story.

This evening, I read another, more ominous article, warning parents to not view these types of guns as harmless toys, that they in fact had the potential to seriously injure, even kill. I thought about my teen years, and the Jaycee shooting classes I took with my brother. I thought about the competitions. I thought about the day, not so many years ago, I went sporting clays with my girlfriends. I thought about how surprisingly good I was at it—how I actually enjoyed it.

Oh Hell, I need to let go of it, don't I? I guess I have. Sort of. He's out there in the brush isn't he? But I still don't like it.


  1. Jayne relax baby..boys will be boys and moms will be moms. It all works out just fine. Deep breaths.

  2. I don't know CM. In light of what's happened in Arizona, and the political vitriol that brings unbalanced people to commit heinous acts, I kind of wish a hadn't fulfilled the boy's wish. Not that he's unbalanced, he's a quite genuine child, but I've still got a gun in my house, still am uncomfortable with the idea.
    Sometimes I have to think what a sad, sad world it is...

  3. I guess you can talk to you son about the fact this is a toy of sorts and to treat it with respect.
    Kids, particularly boys have always been fascinated with combat, war etc. It could be "Call of Duty, black ops" or simply a pile of soldiers for setting up a battle.

    You can treat it as entertainment for him. Ultimately, if you try to ban it, the prospect will simply become more attractive and he'll find another way.
    Good and honest blog..
    I like!!!

  4. Relax...deep breaths...listen to Duke. He knows what he's talking about. After all, can you imagine the crap he pulled when he was growing up? Air soft guns are nothing by comparison to the variety of dangers that he probably perpetrated. And he's in one piece. And he's not in jail. And he's raising a great family. Yes, it all works out. Somehow, with a little help from God and your spouse, it all works out.

  5. Marty - Boys will be boys all right. And true, sometimes the tougher we are, the more they rebel. But I don't mind the rebelling so much.

    Hubby Dear - you're just glad we didn't have to dig deeper in the pocket for that XBox. Yes, I guess Duke didn't turn out so bad after all. I just hope he's not still shootin' doves.

  6. I was an angel, Sir. However a few tidbits come to mind. Firing a speargun in the house. Keeping pet rats under the bed in a laundry basket. and sadly after we learned to tie a hangmans knot in Boy Scouts my brother and I hung all of my sisters Barbies. Looked like that scene in Braveheart. Just general hijinxs thats all.

  7. Duke you madman - thank God I don't have a little hellion like you (were?) in my house. Oh wait, I do. Only it's not the boy. It's all good though, the girl would never touch a rat.

  8. I truly wouldn't worry too much. Have faith that the lessons you've instilled will win out (assuming you have instilled some, of peacefulness and non-violence being the first options.)

    I grew up watching the Three Stooges, playing with toy guns, and doing other things that some think tend to perpetuate violent behavior. I don't ever recall taking a monkey wrench and bopping someone on top of the skull, and I have never fired a real gun in my life. I am quite peaceful.

    It's the individual and his/her environment, not the entertainment or toys, that determines the adult behavior, IMHO.

    (It's no doubt just coincidence that my word verification is SLAPHO...)

  9. Suldog - yes, you're right and I appreciate you IMHO (that funny about the SLAPHO).
    And my little man has a good head on his shoulders. It's the others I worry about... ;)

  10. At least it's an airsoft gun. My teenage son and his buddies would go camping with their BB guns and air rifles,pad themselves up with several layers of clothing, caps and goggles and play war out in the woods. He's got a BB in his leg to this day.

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my new year's post. sorry to be so late returning it.

  11. Love this story.
    I have twin boys, 11. It's all guns, guns, guns. I hate to say but I relented a long time ago. Resistance is futile, as "they" say. I think they were born with the truck and gun gene.
    The other day, my son, booby trapped his room with his airsoft gun. He forgot about it and was "shot". Lesson learned.
    Very nice blog. Love your writing.

  12. Ellen - I don't think I could have made the purchase if we were looking at BB guns. No way!

    Melissa - unfortunately, sometimes the lesson has more effect if learned the hard way.
    Boys will be boys for sure. Before I gave in on any kind of toy gun, my son would fashion his own out of branches, twigs and twine (slingshots, too.). Boys, they're just too darling...