Top cop does NOT want to ban water pistols

… but what he is saying actually doesn’t make much sense either way. Yesterday, Michael Todd, Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police called on people not to buy toy guns for children this Christmas, because it could lead to anti-social behaviour and to unfortunate gun-related incidents:

Michael Todd said seasonal gifts such as replica and ball-bearing guns, knives and fireworks encouraged anti-social behaviour.

He said that 70% of incidents attended by GMP’s armed response unit turned out to be youngsters with replica guns. …

“It is very difficult, even to the trained eye, to decide whether the gun is real of not and an armed officer only has a split-second to make that decision.”

Listening to Vanessa Feltz’s show yesterday morning, it was obvious that she hadn’t heard the whole story, because she seemed to think that brightly-coloured gun-like toys including spud guns (used to shoot bits of potato at people) and water pistols were included in what Todd was saying, and they weren’t. This, of course, is far from the only time a London talk radio host has got the wrong end of the stick and run with it, but it’s surely one of the most blatant! Practically the whole show yesterday morning was conducted on the basis that all gun-like toys were included, and the show became a debate on whether removing such toys from children, and particularly boys, was desirable or effective.

(Of course, the BBC London morning phone-in rarely fails to get me worked up; first there was the egregious Jon Gaunt, who is now a Sun columnist, then Geoff Schumann who is so inarticulate that he commonly uses words to mean something different from their meaning because they sound similar to the word he actually means, and now twittering Vanessa Feltz and her trivial women’s magazine topics.)

This is to me an uncomfortable reminder of the old “educate male violence out of boys” nonsense which was popular with feminists in the past, and the way that when they discovered that boys carried on their action play and girls carried on with their dolly play anyway, it was used as an excuse for yet more educational experiments. You will sometimes still see people brushing off serious issues like school bullying with the excuse “boys will be boys”. Yesterday, one female caller even suggested that guns were some sort of penis metaphor, given that they were cylindrical and that they shoot stuff out!

Of course, when the type of “killing” involved is an imitation of cowboys-and-Indians and cops-and-robbers films, the person killed is supposed to be the baddie. Nowadays when movies aren’t so simple, it’s possible that such play ceases to be so as well. Has any research been done on this? And I’m sure that most parents can teach their children that toy guns aren’t to be played with in the streets or pointed at strangers or people who aren’t playing. Real gun violence is usually about matters like drugs or “respect”, and if these themes really do appear in kids’ play, not buying guns aren’t going to change that. (ObLink: England Project.)

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