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I’m on the road again, picking up my all-too-distant offspring for her summer vacation. Along the way, I came across this truck stop display. I’ve known a lot of truckers in my time. I’ve never known one of the “knights of the road” to go to work unarmed. While I can imagine a trucker shooting some motel art glass with one of these faux NERF guns for a few hours, pacing back and forth like a caged animal, the gun is clearly targeted at small fry. Having survived multiple extended road trips with my sister, I’ve gotta say that handing a cranky kid anything capable of shooting projectiles from the back seat to the front is just asking for trouble. Which is why it’s catnip to pre-pubescent boys. Moving on . . . 

Continuing my trek across N. Texas, I happened upon the Mecca for all things Electro-mechanical, Fry’s Electronics. Fry’s, for the uninitiated, is a chain founded in California under the premise that what nerds really needed was a one-stop-shop that would have everything they’d ever need, from laptops and microwave popcorn to flux capacitors and the microwaves to pop the corn (or build a really neat weapon – your results may vary).

Exhibit 2 [above] is just a small portion of the selection in NERF weaponry on offer, all of which addresses the self-defense/tactical needs of nerds everywhere. The guns also answer a question that so many gun owners ask: with so many gun-free workplaces , what’s a nerd to do? Answer: man-up with a selection of NERF assault weapons.

I’ve heard countless gun control types argue that toys like this encourage kids to be violent. I would argue the opposite.

I grew up in a time before NERF. I remember using a piece of vaguely gun-shaped wood or some sticks duct taped together to resemble my idea of an M-16, with gun-like onomatopoeia emanating from my  young lips, along with the words, “Bang, bang! You’re dead!” (Kids didn’t say “futhermucker” back in the day. Or knew what that euphamism meant, for that matter.)

I didn’t need NERF for that. All I needed was a vivid imagination and a sense of fair play.

Oh yes, we had rules on the playground. If you were “shot,” you were dead—and stayed dead until the end of the sortee. If you cheated, you were immediately ostracized from the group, at least until the next game. Raising a girl, I’m left wondering if today’s male NERF nerds have a similar code of honor. I suspect they do.

My only objection to the NERF weaponry has nothing to do with the concept of violence and toys. By using these really cool, colorful weapons, kids don’t need to use their imaginations. I’m guessing here, but I’d bet on the whole, I had a lot more fun with my sticks and duct tape carbine. It was the best kind of gun—the kind that never runs out of ammo.

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