Why I Agreed to Buy My Kids Nerf Guns

by Paige Wolf

We live in a country with unspeakable gun violence, horrifyingly lax gun laws, daily mass shootings, and terrifying school lockdowns. In this day and age, as a liberal-minded anti-gun family, what do you do when your kids want to play with toy guns?

I always assumed we’d have a “toy-gun-free household.” I also assumed my kids would eat my home cooked meals and not watch YouTube videos for 3 hours a day. But you know what they say about assumptions – and raising kids has managed to make me regularly feel like a true asshole.

So when my tween discovered a Nerf Gun (ahem, blaster) at the home of a similarly liberal-minded friend’s home, I tried to resist his immediate begging for a gun/blaster/imitation death weapon of his own. But after talking it through and doing some research, I ultimately decided I was OK with allowing toy guns in my own home, purchased with my own money on purpose (which I am also convinced will sell my data to the NRA).

For one, it allowed me another opportunity to speak to my kids about gun safety. We talked about what to do if we see an unlocked gun in a friend’s home (call home right away!), why you should NEVER touch a real gun even if you think it may be fake or unloaded, and why guns have a place in society for hunting and safely-handled sport.

My husband has shot clay pigeons in the Adirondacks and I’ve shot a handgun at a shooting range. In day camp, we had riflery practice with BB guns. We both grew up to be responsible humans with no interest in owning guns, but we understand why people do keep them for sport and safety.

We also realize that when you deprive your kids of having that thing all their other friends have, it can create a desire to rebel and seek out these things behind their parents’ backs. Many child experts agree that forbidding this type of play only gives pretend guns more power. And I’d rather monitor the way they play with toy weapons in their own home so that I can emphasize rules like, “Don’t ever aim for each other’s faces” and “Don’t hurt anyone on purpose.”

Plus, kids with a desire for pretend gun play will make anything into a weapon – food, toys, even their own fingers.

According to some experts, play guns aren’t about hurting others.

“Even though toy gun play appears violent at first glance, parents should peel back the layers of what they’re seeing. Toy gun play isn’t about violence as much as it is about symbols. Toy weapons symbolize power, leadership, authority, strength and control. Pretend arms give children the chance to unravel these complicated concepts in the safe realm of play.”


Ultimately access to toy weapons of any kind is a personal choice and not always an easy one. But I currently have four kids running around my house having a great time and playing within the set boundaries we’ve laid out. And I think they’re all going to be OK.

Here’s another parent’s take on this topic.

What do you think? To Nerf or not to Nerf?