I've noticed a great many parents do everything within their power to prevent their children playing with toy guns and weapons. As a 30-something, I grew up with toy swords, bows and guns, action men (GI Joe's) and ninja turtles etc. I'd hope most people who know me would consider that I've turned into a reasonable and well-balanced adult, just as those who I grew up with have also done.
My son recently turned 1 and currently doesn't have any gun / weapon toys, but as he gets older I suspect there will come a time when he wants to play "Cops and Robbers" or similar. Currently I'm not against the idea of him having toy weapons, but at the same time I don't want to expose him to anything that'll turn him into a violent or aggressive adult.
Most sources I've read state there's no correlation:
No study has yet linked pretend gunplay to future violent behavior, and most child experts agree that by forbidding gunplay entirely, parents give it far more power and will probably drive it underground.
I've always thought that children don't really relate this type of play to violence and that it's more about good verses evil - but it's important to ensure they have some context / awareness of how to role-play those scenarios appropriately. Echoed by this article:
That doesn't mean this type of play is about violence, however. According to Thompson, it's really about dominance and heroism, winning and losing, and who gets to be the good guy in the end. Sometimes "there is aggression and hurtfulness, and that must be stopped," Thompson says.
Is preventing children playing with toy guns more a projection of the parents views or is it from a genuine belief (or study) that it is likely to harm the child's development?
If you don't let your child play with weapons, can you explain your rationale?
Likewise, if you do - why? Also, do you impose any controls or limits around play "violence"?
A few people have asked for background information on my location and laws here:
I'm from the UK, so access to a real gun by a child is very remote. Toy guns are legal, but almost all I see for sale are in bright / unrealistic colours etc. As others have mentioned, wherever you live, it's probably wise to ensure a toy can be identified as such from a distance.
However (despite the title), my question isn't gun specific - I'm interested in how to ensure "violent" play (including swords and bows etc.) doesn't encourage real violence or aggression. So, as one answerer touched upon - how they teach a kitchen knife isn't for playing with is valid in this context.