By today’s standards, I’d have life at Gitmo. Why? In school I had the gall to make a thermo nuclear detonator (based on the Martian’s design from bugs bunny), stolen from an encoded data disk (a He-man shield from BK). What was my dad thinking!? I could have grown up into a terrorist bent on trying to take over the world (Pinky and the Brain)! How could a West Point graduate allow his son to be so violent?
Rule #1 Use your imagination
In the heart of a boy is the desire to spar. Included in this is a heart of justice, honor and FUN! I played cops and robbers. I played army (hoo-rah!). It was pretty simple: good guys won (always barely, but sometimes by epic proportions that make Lord of the Rings seem like a cartoon) and the bad guys always lost (but seemingly were able to come back and fight again).
Rule #2 Guns kill and life is precious
I was never allowed to point a gun at a person. By gun I mean any veneration of such. When older, dad reluctantly allowed me to play lazer tag. Why? Because guns kill people and life is precious. I was not allowed to let my sisters be bad guys. And all black-ops sniper missions against said sisters were promptly aborted (those pesky West Point Grads). In playing with guns I was taught respect for the weapon and for life. By gun it didn’t matter if it was a toy, a gun was a gun.
Rule #3 A man’s job is to defend against evil & injustice
Call it old school, but I was taught there was evil and we need people willing to stand against evil. I was also told that is a man’s job, the honorable thing to do, and the harder choice. This lead to a profound respect for those serving in the military, law enforcement, emergency responders, and those who proclaim freedom. Why? Because there is evil out there and there is such a thing call tyranny. Learning about this starts in childhood. A gun-pencil boy today may be a police officer defending you tomorrow.
Rule #4 Teach boys how to play with guns
Rather than scold boys for turning pencils into guns, teach them to point guns at tyrants, despots and murders, or targets, deer, wolves, zombies and storm troopers. Teach them that life is precious. Teach them that all guns are dangerous and should be treated as they’re loaded. Teach them to not point guns at people (especially mom). Cheer them on as they vanquish evil, rescue those trapped by tyrants or save you from T-Rex! (Tip: Boys, should your gun fly out of your hand and shatter a window, saying you’re fighting against bad guys won’t work. You’ll pay to replace said window.)
The bottom line:
Take a boy’s gun away and you send him to the darkside. He’ll either learn to despise authority and be like Vader or he’ll lose the soul of what it is to be a boy growing up into a man. Anything can be a gun. Why? Cause boys like to spar. Boys like to problem solve. And, boys need to learn to defend justice and protect the innocent. When a boy picks something up and it magically becomes a gun, he is asking to learn about honor and justice. Don’t take his gun away, answer his question!