The battle in gun safety versus gun rights has recently taken yet another turn towards the surreal. It all started when the mayor of New York made it illegal to paint a firearm to make it look like a toy. It seems as though some unsavory types were attempting to disguise weapons by spray painting them to look like a theater prop or toy. It seemed like a reasonable measure. Unfortunately, gun advocates disagreed.
Gun manufacturers, angered by the mayor's new law, have begun to market an in-your-face response: They've begun making real guns that look like toys straight off the assembly line. I kid you not. (And the NRA wonders why safety advocates are so critical of their industry.) What's next guys, child friendly hand grips? These new firearms, painted bright colors and labeled with cheery paint coatings such as "watermelon red" have begun to hit the market. Pistols in hot-rod red, candy apple green, shiny purple, bright yellow, hot pink, and all sorts of other kid-inviting colors are being bought and sold as we speak. Some even have a little cartoon decal on them, meant to mock the mayor but all too similar to something you might find on a toy car or skateboard design. Naturally, this is more than a little concerning to us.
This means a couple things for your children:
Police are going to be paranoid, and the odds of an officer mistaking a juvenile prank for an actual threat are greater than ever. It might be a good time to sit down with your children and talk with them again about the importance of never, ever, ever pointing anything at a police officer. This is especially important for teens. It only takes one playful gesture to turn an ordinary day into a tragedy, and if you've read the news lately, some trigger-happy cops in many areas seem to be having a hard time distinguishing plastic soda bottles or yellow magic markers for firearms as it is.
More importantly gun manufacturers might as well have put a ribbon and lollipop on their merchandise along with a sign that says "play with me." To a child (who may or may not know how to distinguish a real gun from a fake gun) these firearms look like they could be water pistols or toy props. They are, by design and intent, made to look like a toy. They're inviting to children. Numerous gun tragedies (perhaps 20-30 percent of those involving children) start out with the same problem: a child finds a gun and assumes it isn't real. They do what they might do with a toy gun . . . point it at a friend and playfully shoot them. The chances of a child finding one of these new weapons and mistaking it for a toy are substantial, so make sure YOUR child knows that bright colors and a kiddy look doesn't mean its not a real gun. Teach them to never, ever play with a gun or stay around while a friend is playing with a gun. If there's any question at all, don't touch it and find an adult. Take this time to review gun safety with the many resources for children we have available on our website.
Perhaps after a tragedy occurs, gun manufacturers might come to realize that fixing up guns to look like toys wasn't such a good idea. We hope they get their pants sued off in the process. In the meantime, it's a new twist to a long-time threat. Make sure your children are aware of it.