Ms. Macon,

When I was a bit younger than your son, Mattel introduced the Fanner 50, a western-style cap gun. They later added a version styled to look like a snub-nosed revolver that came with a shoulder holster.

One of the must-have toys from a Christmas I remember was the “Shootin’ Shell” version. It used a case with a spring inside to “fire” plastic bullets.

Of course, Daisy BB guns, including the immortalized Red Ryder version, were popular. (The Red Ryder comic strip was still running in the Sunday funnies in those days.)

When we got a little older, about your son’s age, some of my friends began receiving the first real rifles. All of them were .22-caliber and most of them were bolt-action. One friend became the envy of the neighborhood when he received a Remington Nylon 66 semi-automatic rifle.

Our parents didn’t fret; didn’t agonize, and most of all, didn’t whine.

Toy guns were everywhere. We played Davy Crockett with flintlocks, cowboys with Fanner 50s, Rick-O-Shays and other toys, cops and robbers and even space rangers.

Nobody paid us any mind until it was dinnertime.

I got hit in the wrist by a BB at close range. It stung and left a tiny red mark, but it wasn’t bad and other than my friend apologizing (it really was an accident), we went right back to what we were doing, which was shooting BB guns.

Every single adult male in our neighborhood was either a veteran of World War II or Korea, some, like my Dad, were veterans of both. Many of them had guns they brought back from their service, either guns they had been issued or guns they had “liberated” from enemy forces.

Surplus U.S. military semi-automatic rifles were available for as little as $25 from F.W. Woolworths and by mail from places that advertised in popular magazines.

The year I was born, Howard Unruh walked through the streets of Camden, New Jersey. He killed 13 people and injured 3 more with a German Luger. The killings were random.

I was 16 when Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the University of Texas Tower. He killed 17 people and wounded 31. He killed one person who was over 500 yards away. Whitman used a Remington 700ADL rifle. You could hear the rifle shots from my grandmother’s house.

I was beyond the toy gun stage by then, but my younger brother still enjoyed them. The shelves in the toy stores were still packed with them.

Popular television shows and movies included spy shows, James Bond, westerns and police dramas.

Parents still didn’t fret; didn’t agonize; didn’t whine.

That, Ms. Macon, was a gun culture. They were an accepted part of life, sometimes even a rite of passage for young men.

You are part of a gun obsession culture. Your obsession over firearms and toy guns is not only bad for you and an unnecessary stress on your son, it’s unhealthy.

Did you know there have been just three years since 1971 that the violent crime rate was as low as what the FBI reported for 2017? Or that in 2014, the homicide rate had dropped to a point not seen since 1958?

Did you know the average rate of rifles being used in homicides was lower during the ten years following the expiration of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban than it was during the ban? That’s all types of rifle combined.

Did you know that the worst school killing in U.S. history didn’t involve guns at all? Andrew Kehoe used explosives to destroy an entire wing of the schoolhouse in Bath, Michigan in 1927. Kehoe killed almost as many children as Adam Lanza and Nikolas Cruz combined. The death toll would have been even higher, but the explosives Kehoe planted in the other wing mercifully failed to detonate. Think about that and remember that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s actual plan was to use homemade propane bombs to collapse the roof of the cafeteria at Columbine High School. They had planned to use their guns to pick off survivors.

Incidentally, there were an estimated 50.7 children in about 98,200 public K-12 schools in the 2017–2018 academic year. Three of them committed actual mass shootings in a school.

A total of 41 children were killed and 103 were wounded in the 96 school shootings reported by the Centers for Homeland Defense and Security. The only one in Vermont happened when police pursued a bank robber onto the football field at Montpelier High School. He threatened the officers with a gun and they killed him. All of the students and staff were inside the building and were never in danger.

To put that number into perspective, the FBI estimates that more children are murdered by their own parents every year than the total number of children killed in school shootings.

Yes, there have been a few tragic incidents where police have mistaken a toy gun for the real thing. There was also a case where police officers killed a man holding a cell phone. They are tragic but more people have won half-billion-dollar lotteries than have died that way.

I am sorry about your mother. My family is well-aware of suicide. However, the gun wasn’t the cause of your mother’s suicide. Even as the suicide rate in the U.S. has increased, the use of firearms in committing suicide has gone down. What has increased significantly is suicide by hanging. Poisoning by drug overdose is still the most common method among women but hanging accounts for almost as many suicides as guns.

My mother hated guns. She gave me grief whenever she saw me with one, even in uniform. She made my father get rid of the shotgun he had had since he was a boy and the rifle he brought back from World War II.

But she never gave me grief about playing with toy guns. By the time she died, both my sister and I were gun owners. My brother was never interested.

Your son is playing outside; exercising his body and imagination. Be glad; it’s perfectly healthy. Boys have played with toy weapons for thousands of years and society has managed to muddle though.

Quit obsessing; quit projecting your fears onto your son’s innocent play. Understand that soon he will outgrow toy guns and he might never own a real gun in his life. Also understand that if, as an adult, he chooses to buy a firearm, that’s his choice, not yours.

If you really want to do something worthwhile and productive, teach him safe gun practices. You don’t need a real gun to do it. There are books and free, online videos that you can watch. You don’t have to be accepting of guns or like guns but you can educate your son, help him be truly safe and support his growth as a person. It will also give him something he can brag about and share with his friends.

It’s called a win-win.

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of onewordtexas.org

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