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As an OFWG, I can remember playing war and cowboys and native Americans in backyards and woods. Our weapons don’t compare with anything you’ll find in any videogame. At best, we had Mattel’s finest polymer rifles (which weren’t too fine). Mostly we used sticks. But at least we were outdoors and our combat strategy depended on the character of real people.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a bunch of kids playing pretend with guns in the wild. It’s been decades. Then again, I spent those decades in big cities and blue state suburbs, sheltered from “real America.” Yeah I know: NERF has never been bigger. But do kids play with guns outside anymore? If not, what does that tell you about American gun culture?,

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    • Darn straight! In fact we were just at Legoland in California (yes: CALIFORNIA!) and in the giant Lego pit, kids were building,,,GUNS (mostly handguns of a variety of physics-stretching dimensions) and then playing a sort of indoor hide-and-seek-and-shoot game which they spontaneously developed. The best part: lots and lots of parents sitting around and looking on benignly and contentedly sipping coffee. Not a single pearl was clutched. And again – California. I don’t think it’s as bad there amongst the rank and file of the populace as it seems, watching the horrid politicians trying to outdo one another on gun control. Or maybe it’s because we were all tourists from other states. It was still a great thing to see.

  1. The lost Nerf darts I find every time I mow attest to the popularity of playing with toy guns…at least with kids. And their friends.

  2. All boys play with guns and even some girls – even if they don’t have toy ones. No matter where you may roam, your favorite blaster is only a thumb and index finger away!

    “Hey! Don’t point that thing at me, kid.” ?

  3. I was a kid in the wake of WWII and we constantly played “War” with Americans as the “good guys” and Germans and Japanese as the “bad guys”. We had toy guns which most assuredly were not authentic and some of us wore surplus or trophy bits of uniforms of the respective armies. (If you think that a German helmet is heavy, try wearing one when you’re eight years old.) I’m quite sure that the oh-so-PC parents of the little darlings today would be absolutely horrified if they ever saw their progeny playing “our guys vs. the terrorists” and immediately haul them off to get their heads shrunk after demanding to know who put such a notion in their impressionable minds in the first place.

    • Play good guys and terrorists? what kid in their right mind wants to roam the play ground wearing a diaper on his noggin?

  4. My kids play outside with Nerf guns. My kids play inside with Nerf guns. One even emerged from the snowpack last spring, and let’s not talk about the darts absolutely everywhere. My oldest kid just got an airsoft gun as well, to prove he can responsibly handle it before I will let him handle the real deal.
    And I saw one of the kids a couple blocks over hauling around one of those belt fed Nerf guns back before winter started.

  5. More often it’s light sabers though nerf shooters would be a second choice

    How long has it been since the Hollywierd degenerates made a cowboy and njuns movie for kids to get interested in? There would be a niche for the lowbudget aspiring “counterculture” moviemaker (the counter being of the existing free “entertainment” industry.)

    • The last “classic” western I can remember was Silverado. Tom Selleck made Monte Walsh for television using excerpts from the the middle of the book. In my opinion Selleck’s movie captured the spirit of the book better than the earlier one starring Lee Marvin. The book is well worth reading. Rather than an action story, it is a character study of a cowboy’s life. The ending, in which Walsh dies a hero, was appropriate, if sad. The end of his life coincided with the end of the world he had inhabited.

  6. When I was young I used to run around the neighborhood with friends playing with revolver cap guns during the day or night and would shoot BB guns in the yard. We never had the police called on us.

    These days I don’t see any kids doing that and I don’t think it would be possible without the police swooping in. However, today’s kids are more into airsoft guns and playing at paintball/airsoft fields. Although, it’s not like most parents (especially mothers) are willing to buy their kids airsoft/BB guns that look like the real thing.

    If my mother saw us with any type of gun she would throw it away without us knowing. Even though her kids are fully grown now, she doesn’t want any guns in her house ever (seems like many mothers around here think the same way). It’s not like it’s very safe around here — there has been (while I was home) at least 2 murders a house over and 1 car to car shooting that caused one of the cars to crash across the street from my house.

    I guess the intolerance of guns from the general person around here comes a lot from the government’s reaction to any type of gun. As in people are trying to reduce the likelihood kids are unjustly arrested or killed by the police when they are playing with fake guns. Ironically, keeping all guns away from your family is more likely to keep the police away from them, but (obviously) that will do the opposite when it comes to criminals. It’s ridiculous that people have to play the odds in a country that is supposed to have human rights.

  7. Water guns and water grenades were big growing up. We also played a lot of man hunt at night. Kids still play with nerf and dart type guns.

  8. I grew up overseas and lived in gated neighborhoods with Americans and upper middle class locals. The other dwellings available were in the actual Embassy compounds. In the Philippines, airsoft and paintball were popular but the courses and parks were hours away in the literal jungle.

    My friends and I had airsoft masks, tacticool gear, and air-powered mp5s, desert eagles, berettas, etc. with no red tips. And we would have “wars” around our houses which sometimes spilled out on the nearby street. But we certainly didn’t shoot random people or the gate guards. Besides, they all knew who we were. The local armed guards at the neighborhood entrances never batted an eye when they would see American kids running around shooting at each other.

    We didn’t have ready access to bright nerf guns, or I’m sure we would’ve used those as an option. However, true-to-life airsoft replicas were everywhere and sold locally so of course we wanted the “cool” gear.

    We did bows and arrows (rubber of course), cops and robbers, jailbreak (it was the pre-cursor to parkour plus hide and seek), etc.

    Granted this was 20+ years ago when “armed” children would only be a threat if there was ongoing civil unrest, a coup, or war going on where it could be conceived that the firearm was not a toy. Context comes into play.

    As per usual, the actions of a few screw it up for everyone else. So it’s no surprise “mass shooters” have pretty much curtailed a lot of options for shoot-em-up recreation for kids today. It’s bright nerf guns or nothing I suppose.

    • Another note:

      If I had kids today, I think I would be hard pressed to let them run around with any kind of toy gun unless I had land that was away from the prying eyes of the public (who would be stupid enough to call 911 without comprehending what they were actually seeing) and away from police.

      In short:
      I don’t trust people today to be logical and see things with context. We live with a generation of reactionaries that just call for mommy (aka police) at the first sign of personal discomfort. Or they just turn off their brain and record events through their phones and then process it later when it’s uploaded — it’s a simple case of displacement when dealing with a situation they can’t handle… and it’s an epidemic.

      Second, I don’t trust all police officers to be “Officer Friendly” rather than the para-military-itchy-taser/trigger-finger-type that I run into on occasion or see all over Youtube.

    • My folks had a set of “Jarts.” Darned if I know what happened to them. They were lots of fun and no one got his eye poked out because we weren’t stupid.

      I remember cap guns, they didn’t last too long. We tended to be kinda hard on them. I also remember smashing entire rolls of caps on the sidewalk with a hammer. Possibly the source of some hearing loss.

  9. to the editor …native americans?….dude Obama and the PC police are Looong gone…how about cowboys and Indians?

    • Most Indians I’ve met call themselves Indians. They don’t yell if you say Native American.
      Some want to be called NA. They yell plenty loud if you call them Indian.
      As a publisher, you gotta pick your battles. This one’s pretty minor.

    • But then you gotta be specific. Push start or pull start Indians. Push starts have the red dot on their foreheads. Pull starts have the pony tail.

  10. Why do we have parents who abhor the very THOUGHT of their children playing with toy guns? Maybe it’s because they’ve literally been brainwashed. Yes, we had a president who appointed an Attorney General who declared that we must “brainwash” our citizenry about the evil of guns. Don’t believe it? Here ya go:

  11. Yeah when I was a kid we all played war(never cowboys & injuns). But that was 50-60 years ago…now I rarely see kids doing that. Trigger happy po-leece, hysterical mommies and the usual sissies are the main culprits. My Ozzie and Harriet world is gone…

  12. A Nerf rocket. How lame.

    When we did rockets in the Cold War 1970’s, we soldered two empty coffee cans on top of each other then buried it up to the rim.

    That’s right, we launched our Estes rockets from *silos*… 🙂

    • That’s pretty cool. I can’t remember how many of those things I lost in the 90’s but it was quite a few.

      Never built a silo though, we used the tripod launcher-majiggers. I’m pretty sure the university would have had a conniption if we had dug up their baseball fields to put in missile silos.

  13. Yes, except in my case it was good guys versus bad guys. We frequently reenacted the final shootout from popular movies and television shows. (Everyone wanted to be a good guy instead of a bad guy which should tell you something about the values our parents had taught us.)

  14. Yes, children in my neighborhood spend a lot of time outdoors and yes they have toy guns (and squirt guns) that they shoot each other with. Of course everyone here, except maybe the new folks across the street, has real guns too. But the kids don’t play with those.

    They also have minibikes, mini 4wheelers, and even street hockey equipment.

  15. I think I’ve seen two kids in my neighborhood in 2 months since I have moved to my new house. If it were me as a kid, I would barely be inside and most of my friends would have been out running around with me. Many times it was playing army.

  16. I don’t see kids doing anything outside anymore. No one on the basketball courts, football or baseball fields. My wife’s son used to come home from school, get on Xbox, and he was there until bed time. It’s sad to think so many of us were out of the house when the sun came up and weren’t back in until dinner, playing in the woods and fields unsupervised no less, and now you couldn’t pry a kid away from their phone, computer, etc.

    • It is pretty sad that parent’s don’t encourage kids to go out more. We recently had a nice snowed in weekend and my kids were the only ones playing in the snow outside in our entire neighborhood. Technology has become the new babysitter.

  17. My nephews go out into the woods and play “war” with their airsoft guns. A few of those airsoft guns look pretty close to their real life counterparts. 30-40 acres of honest-to-goodness woods, and they’ll disappear for hours. They love when their cousins come over, because then the battles actually get some decent strategy, rather than just sniping each other.
    Yes, they also have nerf gear. They also have video games. But they, like my daughters, also fish, hunt, play sports, they do chores that cause them to actually break a sweat, all that.
    I don’t know why people grime about how “kids these days” just don’t get out like they used to. If you have kids and they aren’t getting out, maybe it’s because you’re not kicking them out of the house and telling them to go get lost for a few hours. If you DON’T have kids, well then, it’s clear you just don’t know what you’re talking about.

  18. On my son’s 2nd birthday we got him a little “rifle” that shot ping pong balls and he’s never looked back. He’s been making guns out of legos, k’nex, you name it for as long as I can remember. He’s 7 now, owns a couple of BB and air soft rifles, a couple of those evil bolt action .22’s and we just got him a Walther P22 for Christmas in OD Green. (For highly supervised range time with his instructor dad). His favorite past time is to put on his safety goggles and make a little BB gun range out back.
    Kids should play cops and robbers. It establishes a good vs. bad mindset. Not this pansy grey area that’s becoming praised. I don’t care how many glares and eye rolls I get from other moms at the park, if my son wants to run around ‘shooting bad guys’ with his bright orange nerf gun, I’m going to let him.


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