Practical Dad

Guns and Kids:  AirSoft

If I'm going to raise the kids to know how to use firearms - safely and properly - is there a place for the use of Airsoft toy guns?

For those who aren't aware, Airsoft is the 21st century equivalent of the old Red Ryder BB gun, a high tech air-powered weapon that shoots plastic pellets and is popular in the newly-rushing testosterone set.  They come in multiple variants that resemble real weapons, albeit with bright red endpieces so that the average joe isn't stunned by their presence, and shoot round plastic pellets that leave a nasty mark.  I've heard parents tell the kids that they shouldn't be shooting at one another when they're outside with them but that's as effective as telling the family dog to shut up when another dog trots by.  The result is that the kids engage in mock warfare and it's not uncommon for at least one of them to return with multiple welts from pellet impacts.  This honestly any different from when my generation played with BB guns and I can recall multiple instances of my friends and I blithely disregarding the parental warnings and playing war games.  But have times changed sufficiently so that it really is an issue?

My own sense - and the house rule - is that an Airsoft device won't be purchased for the kids to use for two reasons.  The first is the simple issue of safety; when the kids know that they can play "safe" war games and still have the adrenaline rush of stinging the other guy, then they'll likely use the Airsoft gun for human/animal target practice.  The second reason is that it blurs and lessens the sense of responsibility that should extend to guns and other weapons.  If a kid has access to, and use of, an Airsoft gun, then he'll likely begin to think that he's an expert in the use of real guns should he have access to them.  When my wife and I had the opportunity to speak with a pistol instructor - a former Marine sergeant and Blackwater contractor - this was his sense as well.  In his world, a gun is something that deserves the utmost respect for it's capacity to kill, even if it's owned for reasons of personal defense or even hobby.  There are safety rules that must be strictly followed because any lapse in their usage can result in a potentially fatal accident and in his view, kids who are used to the forgiving nature of Airsoft are likely to treat the real gun with a lessened respect that increases the possibility of incident.  Gun ownership requires a higher order of responsibility and discipline for the recognition of the destructive capacity of the gun, as well as an inherent understanding that no one is invulnerable and all are subject to injury and in the worst case, death.  But the simple reality is that most children and teens have no experience with death and believe themselves to be invulnerable and the notion that their actions could go awry hasn't occurred to them.

The upshot - if you'll pardon the pun - is that we've opted to forego Airsoft guns.  We will make sure that the kids learn how to handle guns properly and with strict supervision, but anything that blurs the line of adherence to the safe handling of firearms will be disallowed in the household.  If there's an Airsoft gun to be used, it will have to be used elsewhere.

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